By Marsten Anderson The Alycia Anderson Company Staff
In celebration of the 11th Global Accessibility Awareness Day. One cannot help but to ponder, what does accessibility really mean? Why should we be aware of it, and how should we celebrate our awareness of it?
The organizers who marked the official celebration of this day have intended it to focus on the “digital access and inclusion” aspects of what this term implies in today’s world. This means in some way that they want to bring awareness to the need of an accessible web for people with disabilities. Some of the people to consider more specifically may need vision, hearing and motor function adaptations, that would allow for your website to change in a way that it becomes usable.
Examples of these adaptations include the ability to adjust color contrast levels, supplying textual alternatives to graphic images, offering transcriptions of embedded videos on your website, and making sure that your websites and documents are capable of being navigated by assistive devices such as a keyboard. True digital access will even consider all other accessibility needs such as avoiding triggers of PTSD and the nuances of all other invisible disabilities.
The idea and practice of making the world’s digital communication platforms, products and services fully usable by all people is truly a worthy goal, and the same applies to all other facets of what accessibility provides in every other meaning. Accessibility should most definitely be celebrated!
Living with a disability my whole life has added a lot of weight and meaning to the word accessibility. I have seen pretty much every form of physical adaptation that is related to accessibility throughout my lifetime and it trickles even into the non-physical.
As all disabilities represent their own unique set of circumstances, one thing is common: we all need accessibility in some shape or another. So, I wanted to try and unpack this in an article as a way to celebrate, GAAD.
This led me to search the web on accessibility. I always like to start with the definition of what I’m thinking about. I found that there was no definition listing for the actual word “accessibility,” yet I also found the search directs to five different definitions offered for the word “accessible” in the Merriam Webster Dictionary:
|a : capable of being reached
also : being within reach
b: easy to speak to or deal with
|: capable of being used or seen
|: capable of being understood or appreciated
|: capable of being influenced
|: easily used or accessed by people with disabilities
: adapted for use by people with disabilities
With so many different definitions, it’s no wonder that I have a lot of feelings when it comes to reflecting on the word accessibility. As it touches so many layers of one’s self and being: speech, demeanor, usability, visibility, education, self-worth and gullibility. It even relates to the access of our environment and the adaptations we use to achieve things. This is why awareness of accessibility is so important!
The recurring messages in the definitions above to me are “being capable” and the “making of capable.” And as mentioned in my long experience with disability and accessibility I somehow know why the words “with disabilities” appear there and not just “people”, in the definition, but truthfully, accessibility is relatable to anyone and all of us.
The mention of “people with disabilities” in the definition above means something though, as the dictionary is basically a general consensus of the wider population, a piece of our great collective, it reveals things that are ingrained in our modern-day way of thinking.
Accessibility surely cannot be something that only people with disabilities need? In fact, accessibility is at the core of our innovation. It leads us. It drives us, in everything that we do. If we have access to this, then we can do that, just fill in the blanks.
Oh no, this is where we run into accessibility’s nemesis ableism, which turns the discussion of accessibility into more of a selective, exclusive and preferred thing. It defaults our mentality to think we don’t have enough resources for everyone to have everything, do we? It sets alarms off in our minds with thoughts like: Should everyone have access to everything? Should everyone have access to the same things or different things? Should everyone have access to the things they need?
I may be getting a touch lost in my thoughts here but that is because I am trying to think of ways to share with you what accessibility means to me, and to me accessibility is varied, sometimes deceptive, can be elusive, other times it is nonexistent or it is lifesaving, respectful, tasteful, and liberating. So accessibility really comes in all shapes and sizes.
Accessibility for people with disabilities in reality boils down to very few acceptable norms in society: restrooms, elevators, and parking spots to name a few, and most of these you may occasionally or frequently see used by able-bodied people as well. In fact, accessibility for people with disabilities means a lot more than that, and accessibility of the web should be another norm in the must have category.
Just like there are many versions of the meaning of the word accessibility there are most likely thousands upon thousands of types of ways accessibility applies to disabilities and every one of them is packed with meaning.
So accessibility means a lot of different things but mostly it is the capability to make use of a given need by anyone who needs to. It can play a major factor in the quality of our lives. We all need accessibility to: food, water, housing, healthcare, education, employment and retirement, to live our lives fully.
Our awareness of accessibility should be keen, when it is present it allows us a feeling of comfort and security while without it we may feel lost and left out. This is why accessibility is so important for all of us.
So in celebrating accessibility and our awareness of it I propose that we all do what we can to help make the world more accessible to everyone.
Happy Global Accessibility Awareness Day Everyone!