Accessibility is an Ethical Responsibility

What does accessibility mean?

Tim Berners-Lee, Director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), says the meaning of web accessibility is:

“To put the internet and its services at the disposal of all individuals, whatever their hardware or software requirements, their network infrastructure, their native language, their cultural background, their geographic location, or their physical or mental aptitudes.”

Put simply, an accessible website means you’re providing information that everyone can access.

508 icon.

Why design with accessibility in mind?

An estimated 20% of the population has some type of disability. That’s 1 in 5 people or over 1 billion. The major categories include: Visual, Hearing, Motor, and Cognitive. With the aging population, even though you yourself may not currently fall into one of these categories, it’s highly likely that you will develop a disability in your lifetime.

To put this into perspective, think about sidewalk cutouts. Sidewalk cutouts became a requirement to meet the needs of a wheelchair bound person – someone with a disability. However, sidewalk cutouts are used for so much more – strollers, grocery carts, bicycles, etc. Inclusive design is better design and benefits all. And as you incorporate accessibility into your sites and documents, you will see the overall improvement in the quality & usability of them.

Accessibility Movement

Even though disability laws have been in place for decades, only in recent years have these laws been enforced to the fullest. With increased use of technology, it is essential to make sure your digital access points comply with the law.

Icons signifying disabilities.

  • For a person without a disability, technology makes things easier.
  • For a person with a disability, technology makes things possible.

Source: Georgia Tech Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Accessibility Training

What can you do?

Now, more than ever, it’s easy to get started on the road to accessibility! The tools we use are constantly evolving to assist us in doing our part to meet accessibility standards. Microsoft is one example of a company that has gone the distance for both sides of this equation:  those creating documents for the web and those requiring assistive technology.

All Microsoft technologies include an Accessibility Checker tool and have many built-in features to assist you in creating accessible documents – reimagine accessibility with Microsoft. Also, be sure to check out Microsoft’s accessibility overview outlining the built-in assistive technology features for each disability category.