With 2021 behind us, it’s time to start reflecting on the past year and set sights on the new one. It is easy to say that this past year has been full of lessons (for better or worse) and while it might also feel like a never-ending cycle of one step forward and two steps backward, we must go forward. I am optimistic that the year to come will be one that is filled with progress for the disability community. Progress starts with all of us and the way to make strides is to start with changes about the way we view our world. Below are four resolutions for the new year regarding accessibility and equality for people with disabilities.
Increasing Disability Awareness Knowledge and Skills
A good place to start is learning more about the disability community and the importance of accessibility. Whether you consider yourself an accessibility specialist or are looking to learn some fundamentals, there are plenty of resources available online to help increase your knowledge. Perhaps you’d like to learn about Disability Awareness and Etiquette or maybe learn how to create accessible documents. Regardless, the Rocky Mountain ADA Center has a robust catalog of free training courses available to everyone.
Introducing Accessibility to Others
After you’ve learned a thing or two, share that information with others. It’s as simple as defining what accessibility is, what the basics and standards involve and the importance of language when talking about persons with disabilities. While you may be met with some questions about the topic, it is helpful for people to understand that access to information isn’t a “nice to have,” but a civil right: everyone deserves equal access to information.
Improving Social Media Accessibility
For most, social media is a fairly problem-free experience. But for some, navigating through apps can be difficult. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1.3 billion people have some type of vision disability, a large portion of the population that may have to use text-to-speech devices to navigate digitally. The good news is that there are ways to increase accessibility and more tools are being developed to improve user experience. The following are some ways to make the social media experience more accessible:
- Use emojis in moderation: if you are going to use them, limit the use to two or three relevant ones and place them at the end of social media posts. This article elaborates more on how to use them properly.
- #ProperHashtag: Text-to-speech programs recognize and read hashtags just like they do any other word, so #rockymountainada would be read as one long word. By simply capitalizing each word, the program differentiates the separate terms.
- Verbal Imagery: Social media apps, like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offer ways to add alternative text (alt-text) to image posts so that they are described by assistive devices like screen readers. The Rocky Mountain ADA Center has a great course on Accessible Social Media.
Asking for Accessibility
If accessibility was included in the initial development of content and programs, it would make the experience for users with disabilities so much better. Even if you’re not a stakeholder in a project, you can still participate by inquiring about accessibility. Asking whether the design or branding is consistent with best accessibility design practices or if the new company’s website has been tested for accessibility is a good way to be involved.
It’s these small commitments to ensuring a more accessible and inclusive experience for all that make all the difference in the disability community.