Access Ready Business
Access Ready Business Legal Foundation
When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990, the Internet as we know it today did not exist as the ubiquitous marketplace for information, goods and services. Neither did the information technology-driven workplace. Today, the ADA’s promise that individuals with disabilities would be able to participate in all aspects of American civic and economic life will be achieved in today’s technologically advanced society depends on businesses understanding that their success, as well as their legal obligations, depend on their information technology systems being accessible. Accessibility
Today the Internet and information technology (IT) play a critical role in the daily personal, professional and business life of Americans. More and more, the Internet and IT are central to the workplace and to how business does business.
Access Ready Inc. is a nonprofit cross disability 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 and we would welcome your support.
Increasingly, many businesses covered under Title III of the (ADA) are using websites to market themselves and to provide direct access to their goods, services, and activities. To support these activities the internal or employee facing operations of business are also driven by IT. Without addressing the accessibility of both their internal and external IT, businesses risk losing out on the approximately 25% of American customers and employees who have disabilities. An Access Ready policy advances accessibility across the web and information technology Many business websites and other IT are difficult or impossible for individuals with disabilities to use because the technology does not interface with the adaptive technology used by people with disabilities. Being unable to access websites and information technology puts individuals with disabilities at a great disadvantage in today’s society and starves businesses of potential customers and potential workers.
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. And including accessibility features, like including curb ramps, from the beginning means they are affordable and seamless. The Access Ready Environment is one where website and information technology accessibility is designed from the outset and is not an afterthought as it is so often today. Businesses that embrace an Access Ready policy can accomplish this over a five-year budget cycle without real difficulty.
For many, it is now difficult to imagine a world without the unprecedented access to information that the web provides. Businesses large and small are increasingly providing customers access to goods and services through their websites. Electronic commerce, or “e-commerce,” often offers consumers a wider selection and lower prices than traditional “brick-and-mortar” storefronts. For individuals with disabilities who experience barriers to their ability to travel, the Internet may be their only way to access certain goods and services. The availability of these services online not only makes life easier for customers but allows businesses to operate more efficiently and cost-effectively, as it reduces the overhead costs of retail locations and on-site sales staff. For Businesses to ignore people with disabilities as a market for goods and services is a tremendous mistake. This minority now represents twenty-five percent of the general population according to the Centers for Disease Control. The disability community represents three hundred billion dollars plus a year in disposable income.
Further, why would it be acceptable not to provide access to online goods and services to people with disabilities? No other minority would stand for such limitations and society would not allow such a thing. It is a fact that the Internet is dramatically changing the way that businesses serve their customers. More and more customers with disabilities are asserting their rights to access through litigation. By adopting an Access Ready policy business can achieve and maintain accessibility on the web and through their IT.
People with disabilities also represent a vast untapped talent pool ready to join the workforce. Accessible internal and back-office IT opens many employment opportunities. Given the competition for good employees in today’s economy, the availability of qualified unemployed and underemployed workers with disabilities, the supportive services and accommodations offered by state and federal tax-payer funded programs, such as Vocational Rehabilitation, and the tax and business incentives in place for employing people with disabilities, it is foolish for business not to seek out qualified individuals with disabilities. Making internal and external IT accessible is the foundation that makes it possible for companies to increase their customer base and their employee pool.
What is needed is the adoption of an Access Ready policy that applies to IT across the economy. An Access Ready policy establishes a commitment, a framework, and clear roadmap to achieving accessibility, increasing customers, and improving employee skill and productivity, as well as fulfilling legal civil rights obligations.
Douglas George Towne
Chair and Chief Executive Officer
Access Ready Inc.