Access Ready Government

Access Ready Government
When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990, the Internet as we know it today
did not exist as a ubiquitous infrastructure for information and commerce. Nor did the information
technology-driven workplace. Today the Internet and Information Technology (IT) plays a critical role in
the daily, personal, professional and civic life of Americans. More and more, the Internet and IT are
central to how the workplace and the government do business.
Access Ready Inc. is a nonprofit cross-disability education and advocacy organization promoting a policy
of inclusion and accessibility across information technology through education and best practices.
It shall be Policy One of Access Ready Inc. never to be a plaintiff in and/or financially support any legal
action or lawsuit related to the accessibility or inaccessibility of any information technology software,
hardware or service.
Further, Access Ready Inc. shall make the results of its technical findings, policy discussions and
advocacy efforts available to the public through accessready.org, its social media stream and other
public relations efforts.
The Board of Directors of Access Ready has deemed inaccessible information technology to be a clear,
growing and present danger to the civic, economic and social welfare of people with disabilities. We
would welcome your support.
Increasingly, many state and local government entities covered under Title II of the ADA are using
websites to provide public access to their programs, services, and activities. To support these activities,
the internal and employee-facing operations of government are also driven by IT. Without addressing
the accessibility of both their internal and external IT, government entities cannot meet their
responsibilities to inform, employ, and serve the approximately 20% of Americans who have disabilities.
An Access Ready Policy advances accessibility across the web and information technology.
Title II of the ADA requires state and local governments to ensure that their communications, including
those via the internet and IT, are equally effective for people with disabilities as for people without
disabilities. Equally, effective communication generally means people with disabilities can access or
acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same products and
services that the government’s communications offer its sighted participants with substantially
equivalent ease of use. To be effective, accessible communications must be provided in a timely
manner, and in such a way as to protect the privacy and independence of the individual with a disability.
These requirements apply to both communications. The state or local government makes to members of
the community and communications it receives from the community.
In the age of paper-and-pencil documents and in-person or telephone communications, this generally
meant providing large print, taped texts, and Braille formats for documents, and using sign language
interpreters, relay services, and captioning for meetings and telephone calls. As we have entered the
age of internet- and IT-based communication, however, accessible formats have also moved online.
By making a website or online document or video accessible (i.e., screen readable, usable without a
mouse, and captioned), a state or local government can make its communications accessible without
having to create separate accessible versions. If a website or online document or video is not accessible,

on the other hand, the government will have to maintain a separate system for communicating with
people with disabilities – one that is likely to fail to comply with the ADA’s requirement of equally
effective communication.
Many of the websites and IT used by state and local government agencies are difficult or impossible for
individuals with disabilities to use because the technology does not work with the adaptive technology
available to people with disabilities. Like curb ramps to sidewalks, building bridges between the
standard IT and the assistive technology used by people with disabilities is accomplishable and
necessary to allow people with disabilities to access the systems that are foundational to our workplaces
and civic spaces. Also, like curb ramps, these bridges benefit everyone – with and without disabilities,
are an affordable solution, and are seamless. An Access Ready Environment is one where websites and
IT are designed accessibly from the outset and are not an afterthought. A government that embraces an
Access Ready policy can accomplish this over a five-year budget cycle, or earlier, without real difficulty.
Being unable to access websites and IT puts individuals with disabilities at a great disadvantage in
today's society.
For many, it is now difficult to imagine a world without the unprecedented access to information that
the web provides. The Internet is dramatically changing the way that governmental entities serve their
constituents.
Through government websites, the public can obtain information or correspond with local officials
without having to wait in line or be placed on hold. They can also pay fines, apply for benefits, renew
State-issued identification, register to vote, file taxes, request copies of vital records, and complete
numerous other everyday tasks. The availability of these services online not only makes life easier for
the public, but also enables government to operate more efficiently and cost-effectively. For
government to ignore people with disabilities as a constituency for goods and services is a tremendous
mistake. How can it be acceptable to deny access to people with disabilities, a group that now includes
over 20% of the general population? No other minority group would stand for such limitations and
society would not allow such a thing. An Access Ready policy moves government in the right direction.
People with disabilities represent a vast untapped talent pool ready to join the workforce and to serve
their communities, but unemployment and underemployment of people with disabilities remains
unacceptably high. Failing to hire qualified workers with disabilities leaves them relying on government
benefits, even while their communities need their talents and skills. But, too often, once an employer
hires a person with a disability, they find that their technology is not sufficiently accessible to allow the
person to do their work to their best ability.
What is needed is the adoption of an Access Ready Policy that applies to information technology across
the environment. An Access Ready Policy helps state and local governments find, adopt and maintain
accessible technology that includes all their citizens, makes the most of all their talent, and reduces the
need for redundant ad hoc workarounds. The promise of the ADA to provide an equal opportunity for
individuals with disabilities to participate in and benefit from all aspects of American civic and economic
life will be achieved in todays technologically advanced society only if state and local governments
recognize that their information technology systems must be accessible and take action to make it so.