July 26th, 1990 is considered by many of us living with disabilities in the United States as our Independence Day. It marks the day that the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. The purpose of the ADA was to, “…to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.”
Prior to the ADA, people living with disabilities couldn’t be certain of their right to access things many people take for granted, such as facilities and services and being considered for jobs. This law touches on many aspects of community inclusion and human rights including accessible infrastructure and buildings and other places of public accommodation.
As a young woman in my late twenties who had struggled with lifelong depression and mental illness, the passing of the ADA was a breath of fresh air in my life. I no longer had to fear losing my job should my illness relapse. For many other professionals, the ADA meant that they had the right to be considered for employment, to access theaters and restaurants, sporting facilities and other places most people take entry to, for granted.
It’s important to note that places of public accommodation also include websites and software. Two landmark rulings signaled that this is becoming more important for businesses. The first which involved Target, Incorporated’s shopping website in 2008 and then Netflix Instant Watch Videos in 2012. Both cases made it apparent that, as access to services and resources shifted from brick-and-mortar to online venues, the rights of people living with disabilities would be of equal importance.
As we celebrate the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we look back on how far we have come and how the rights of those of us who live with disabilities, are coming to be regarded as equal to the rights of others. It’s important to understand why this is so vital to equal access to information, goods, services and jobs.
This list will give you an overview of how the ADA is able to help us provide people living with disabilities what they need to access digital information:
- People who are blind may use tools, such as screen reader software or screen magnifiers, to listen to/read electronic information. If web pages and software are not properly structured. this can be difficult or impossible.
- Living with a cognitive disability can make reading and comprehending information difficult. This can be made worse if text is dense or if moving images or graphics distract the reader.
- If you live with a mobility impairment that makes it difficult to use your hands, web pages that require a lot of scrolling and clicking can be exhausting, or make their use impossible.
- Videos that do not have proper captions can be inaccessible to people who are hard of hearing or deaf.
- If you are blind, videos without audio descriptors mean that you will only receive part of the information offered to others.
- People who are deaf blind may not be able to access video information if no transcript is provided.
To learn more about making your website accessible to people across all disability types, reach out to WeCo and speak with on our or Accessibility Specialists. As a mission-based organization, we offer free and low cost services in addition to comprehensive training, auditing and testing.