In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we’re thrilled to team up with Perkins Access to learn more about digital accessibility. NDEAM is held each October to commemorate the many and varied contributions of people with disabilities to America’s workplace. As noted by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, “The theme for NDEAM 2021, ‘America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,’ reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.” As we inch toward the two year mark of this pandemic, being involved in digital citizenship isn’t voluntary anymore. For most of us, our careers, communities, relationships, errands, and hobbies have become virtual in some capacity, and when digital accessibility isn’t at the forefront, entire groups of people get left out. Our friends at Perkins Access wrote the post below to talk about how digital accessibility fits into your DEI strategy, and they also provided some great resources linked at the bottom if you want to learn more.
What is Digital Accessibility?
In simple terms, digital accessibility means designing and developing a digital world that includes everyone. Websites, mobile apps and all digital experiences need to be usable by all, regardless of a person’s age, ability or means of access.
When accessibility isn’t part of the design and development process, barriers are created, which can make it difficult or impossible for a person with a disability to engage and interact as intended. As many key interactions have shifted online due to the pandemic, from virtual banking to food delivery, digital accessibility is essential.
Why is Digital Accessibility important?
Organizations that value diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) want to create a more inclusive and equitable world — whether that’s in person or online, it’s essential for everyone to have access.
If you’re not prioritizing accessibility as part of your DEI commitment, you’re unintentionally excluding a large part of the population. With digital accessibility, you’re able to provide equal access and equal opportunity for as many people as possible. And, by improving your user experience, all users benefit.
Also, digital accessibility is the law. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires places of public accommodation (including websites) to be accessible to people with disabilities and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities, including both employees and members of the public.
How do I get started?
If you’re just learning about digital accessibility, it may seem overwhelming, but don’t worry — digital accessibility is a natural fit with DEI. And like DEI, one of the first steps you can take is getting leadership buy-in across your organization. Once you’ve made a commitment to accessibility, there are widely-accepted standards in place for you to follow. Those standards are called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and they were developed to make digital content more accessible. WCAG has been around since 1999, which means there are experts intimately familiar with the standards who can help you assess where you stand today and what improvements you can make.
Here are some suggestions and resources to get you started:
- One quick way you can improve accessibility is on social media. For example, using camel case in hashtags and alt-text for images is an easy way to begin to make your content more accessible. We also have a cheat sheet for accessible social media posts if you want to dive in further.
- Curious what inclusive digital design looks like? Download the Perkins Access Guide for six ways to create inclusive digital experiences without sacrificing great design.
- If you want to learn more about how you can improve your online inclusion, get in touch with us to schedule a free Q&A session.
Perkins Access is the digital accessibility group from Perkins School for the Blind. Perkins Access partners with organizations of all kinds to help them create digital products, services and experiences — websites, apps, multimedia and beyond — that engage and include all people, regardless of their abilities. Follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn.