I completed a web design for usability course during my MLIS program. For one of the sessions, guest lecturers with disabilities demonstrated how they accessed the Internet and provided insight into the challenges they experience with this activity. An eye-opening learning experience which I’m grateful to have had, which has provided me with greater understanding of the issues the disabled confront accessing the web and how designers can improve web content, layout and features to aid access. I highly recommend reviewing W3C Schools Accessibility Guidelines for more information on removing barriers to web information and communication. The article below discusses another challenge for the disabled when using tech: iterative updates.
WHEN THE AMERICANS with Disabilities Act was passed 25 years ago, it was intended to usher in a new age of accessibility. It promised recourse from discrimination in employment, transportation and communication—in other words, greater access to the physical world. Since then, the world has evolved in radical ways—physical boundaries have come down as our lives have transitioned by varying degrees to online spaces. It is almost impossible to imagine our daily routines without the use of personal technology. For people with disabilities like myself, technology has opened new doors in ways the historic legislation never could have conceived.
As a person with autism and apraxia—a condition that leads me to have great difficulty with planning and organizing everything from moving my mouth when I speak to the steps needed to wash my hands—I rely upon personal technology for many things. A device that translates my typed words into a voice is my link to the world. And the rise of social media and online classrooms has expanded my networks and ability to participate in activities once closed to me.
But often these are positive outcomes of technology made for the masses rather than benefits baked into the design. And as technology is iterated, I can already see ways in which it has and will continue to create new barriers unless its creators consider a more universal approach.