The Terms and Impact of Digital Technology on People with Disabilities

Posted on Tuesday, 7 July 2020 by Marissa Sapega

Digital technology has, without a doubt, made our lives more convenient. With a few clicks of a mouse or a couple of taps on a mobile device, we can deposit a check, order takeout food, purchase office supplies, and accomplish a host of other activities. However, while the simple act of moving a mouse or tapping a smartphone can be performed without a second thought for most people, individuals with disabilities can struggle mightily with them. For example, a person who is blind is unable to see the screen and would have no idea where to tap or click without audio assistance or someone physically helping them. Someone with a motor control or dexterity disability might not be able to physically grasp a phone, tap a button, or click a mouse. The WC3 provides a variety of situations in which technology that is supposed to make life easier turns into a frustrating and degrading experience for people with disabilities. This is why digital accessibility is so critical.

Below are common terms and laws related to digital accessibility:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Along with the moral impetus for inclusivity, there are also legal implications for not adhering to the guidelines set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Title III “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the activities of places of public accommodations.” Since the DOJ has reaffirmed on several occasions that websites are considered “public accommodations,” an inaccessible digital presence is a significant legal risk.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were created by the W3C, an international organization whose goal is to make the internet accessible to everyone. These guidelines provide success criteria for creating accessible digital content. The most recent version, WCAG 2.1, was released in 2018.

WCAG doesn’t just help people with disabilities; it promotes an improved user experience for all users. Many of the guidelines are used to ensure a straightforward, simple experience for users to allow them to complete tasks they need to with ease on a website or app – a net positive for everyone!

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was passed to ensure that people with disabilities could take part in programs and activities funded by Federal agencies and Federal employment. One amendment, Section 508, provides requirements for electronic and information technology that is used by the Federal government. Under Section 508, any digital information or technology employed by the Federal government – or used by vendors working with the Federal government – needs to be accessible to people with disabilities. Though the most recent version of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is WCAG 2.1, digital content should conform to the WCAG 2.0 to comply with Section 508.

A11y

A11y is a numeronym created for accessibility using the number 11 to replace the 11 letters in between “a” and “y.” Created by The A11y Project, it holds many advantages over using the word “accessibility” in content. One such advantage is that it’s easier to include in social media posts that may have limited character counts. Additionally, the word “accessibility” does not always refer to inclusiveness for people with disabilities in every situation in which it is used. As a common English word, it appears in multiple contexts all over the internet. However, a11y provides a very specific context, so someone searching for a11y will find results that are always related to accessibility for people with disabilities. A final benefit is that it’s language-agnostic – its meaning remains the same in all languages.

Digital accessibility has come a long way since the ADA was signed almost 30 years ago. Contact The Paciello Group today to learn how we can partner with you to lower your risk and improve the digital experience for all your users.

Read all content on our tribute to ADA 30.


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