Preaching to the Choir
At the great 2018 Texas Disability Issues Forum I witnessed truly great advocates gather together to listen to concerned candidates from both parties. Unfortunately, no Republicans could find it in their spirit, conscience or heart to show up and clarify their parties support of disability rights. What has happened to the party of Lincoln and the Americans With Disabilities Act? Has it been trumped by big business and smaller minds? Great candidates and advocates spent the day preaching to the choir both in the room and online. It is good to do this kind of thing to get fired up for the contests that come every day. God bless the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities. God Bless Texas.
Twenty-eight years into the Americans with Disabilities Act you would think that people with disabilities would be further along in our quest for accessibility. Perhaps after twenty-eight years, enough is enough and we need to get out of our comfort zones, stop preaching to the choir and take the access issue directly to the promoters of inaccessibility. I’m not talking about the kind of drive-by lawsuits targeting small businesses that have given us all a bad name. But rather a consistent, documented process that brings about a solid policy shift. The kind of access that can be provided as soon as possible, but within five budget cycles with a long-term policy shift sustaining access as a matter of course.
The Access Ready Environments Initiative is creating a policy shift designed to bring about accessibility in information technology as a matter of course and not an afterthought. Again, and again we see that the concept of “reasonable accommodation” as prescribed in the ADA has become a euphemism for doing little or nothing at all. A range of information like the most recent GAO report on the accessibility of voting clearly demonstrates that when left to their own devices access for people with disabilities is not first on the minds of frontline staff. Information technology is the lifeblood of government and commerce and making it accessible to people with disabilities is no longer rocket science. It is readily achievable if required from the outset.
A policy requiring an Access Ready Environment will create accessibility from the outset. Opponents will try to say it will be too costly. It will not if it is a matter of course. Like all technology, accessibility will get less expensive as it becomes the norm. As that takes place circumstances hopefully will reach a tipping point where those not yet engaged by the Access Ready Environments Initiative will come to the determination on their own that accessibility is the right and moral way to deliver goods and services. Information technology developers and providers will no longer even think about putting forth an inaccessible product or service. That tipping point will allow people with disabilities to come into our own as citizens, customers and employees.
Those concerned about the cost of an Access Ready Environments policy should consider the cost of treating twenty-five percent of the population like second class citizens. This is not overstating the issue at all given the fact that information technology is the lifeblood of government and commerce in the twenty-first century. Accessible technology is the path to leveling the playing field for people with all kinds of disabilities. Local, state, and Federal government agencies collectively spend billions on training and equipping the disabled to enter the workforce and accessible information Technology clears the way where inaccessible technology thwarts all those billions spent. The time is now to begin requiring and building a nationwide Access Ready Environment across the information technology landscape.
Douglas George Towne
Chair/Chief Executive Officer – Access Ready Inc.