This century has opened with a dawn of new technologies that offer freedom of action and participation at levels never before achieved by many people with disabilities. The reverse is also true when designs do not incorporate accessibility, making the new technology a punitive barrier. The slight shift that is taking place is more toward the former than the latter as the hard work of advocacy takes effect.
Accessible technology is vital to the disabled at home and in the workplace. Many have found in the past that their investment in accessibility did not result in sales even when mandated by law. Now many who do not offer accessibility are finding they are at a disadvantage in the marketplace.
The ADA and Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act require that technology be accessible. Many vendors are willing and our insistence that buyers comply with the law is changing the dynamic in many circumstances.
Government and big business workers with disabilities are insisting on a level technology playing field with their coworkers and employers are finding the benefits of such a motivated workforce.
Because employees with disabilities started demanding equal access alongside their coworkers, business and government began including accessibility in their purchasing requirements.
We recognize that this is not just about disability rights, but millions of dollars of investment as well as billions in purchasing dollars from business and government.
There is a recognition taking place on all sides of the vital requirement to get accessibility in information technology right and the negative long term effect that will be felt if we don’t. Advocacy organizations like Access Ready are having an effect, but it is the individual at the local level in their community or on the job that are the heroes in this story.
Yes, some of these heroes are the people with disabilities that have to deal with inaccessibility, but more and more we see the issue being pressed by co-workers, managers and yes corporate and government policy leaders.
Yes, some are coming to this understanding because of hardcore advocacy and legal actions. But many more just see the common decency in providing accessibility.
Still, more managers and policymakers are reaching an age where accessibility or the lack of it is beginning to affect them personally. Younger people stepping into these rolls see the world differently than their predecessors and simply can’t imagine not requiring accessibility.
Yes, there are conflicts between opposing attitudes in some cases. Such situations generally form over timing and money, but often over a lack of understanding.
Where timing is concerned people with disabilities need to work with the short term accommodations offered as long as a plan is in place to succeed those short term fixes with accessible solutions.
On the budget or money front, people with disabilities need to help bring an understanding of the higher costs of exclusion or worse yet legal actions.
Where a lack of understanding or an attitude challenge is blocking the path to accessibility, then people with disabilities need to support those arguing on our behalf with education, best practices and demonstrated outcomes. In other words show how and why providing accessibility is in the best interest of all involved whether employee, customer, taxpayer or the business or government entity itself. We should never forget that in the end, it is simply motivated self-interest that can turn the tide toward the freeing effect of technology.