For the first time in the history of humanity we have the ability to create things that are accessible to almost anyone, almost anywhere, almost instantly and it is our responsibility to do so.
A couple months ago I was at a meetup for Columbus Web Analytics Wednesday and I explained to some colleagues that I was working on a Website Accessibility Checker application.
This was shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court had declined to hear an appeal from Domino’s Pizza arguing that the American’s with Disabilities Act’s provisions shouldn’t apply to their website.
As the debate continued, I realized that my feelings on the matter were strong but simple.
If I was blind, I would hope that people who could create content that was accessible to me, would do so.
The difficulties of being blind
When was reading the Gil v Winn Dixie case, I realized even more than I had before, how difficult it is to be blind.
Humans primary sense is sight so without that you can’t read a book, read a normal menu, you can’t tell who or what is in your proximity…heck, you can’t even shop for groceries on your own.
Yet digital media has to conveyed as binary data and that binary data can be translated on-the-fly into other languages, it can be adjusted for color, contrast, size and other display features.
The flexibility of digital media is what makes it accessible to anyone, anywhere at any time, almost instantly.
We have a duty to our fellow humans to do everything we can to accommodate as many users as possible. With the aging population in many developed countries, more and more users need to be able to adapt your website to their needs…aside from being good for the bottom line, why wouldn’t you want to?
Because it takes a little more effort and a little more work? Maybe costs a little more money?
So do handicapped parking spaces and toilets wide enough for wheelchairs but every public place has those features and people aren’t complaining about it.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been in place since 1991. It is now almost 3 decades later and people act dumbfounded when it is applied to their website.
If a blind person walked into a store and was turned away would you think it was wrong? Well then why should websites, which are becoming a more and more significant part of day-to-day life, be able to turn away blind people?
I’m not blind but I do have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), yet because I’m intelligent and figured out ways to compensate, I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 30 and went through great hardships in life before that.
I can often tell people want to scoff when I say I’m disabled, because I don’t have a physical handicap and I’m smarter than the average bear but I was talking to a friend about it the other day and for the first time I realized how much effort it takes for me to make websites usable.
And I’d say ADHD is a minor impairment compared to blindness, deafness, paralysis, etc.
Heck, by the age of 50 most people have need glasses for reading (visual impairment).
So, given that most of us will at some point have some level of disability, shouldn’t we accept our duty to our fellow man to make everything that we can accessible so it works for as many people as it can?
I think so, and so does federal law under the ADA, the Fair Housing Act, the Affordable Care Act and Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.