Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

Initial Steps to Create Accessibility in Process, Practice and Research

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Sawyer B. Rogers
January 26, 2024

Accessibility can improve participation, engagement and understanding. Improving accessibility is essential for breaking down barriers that prevent or hinder individuals from active participation in society. This article shares some initial frameworks, strategies and resources that we as individuals, practitioners and academics can use to improve access.

People with disabilities are not the only ones who can benefit from improvements in accessibility as such improvements universally reduce barriers. Broad-based statistics relating to disability are more readily available than statistics focused on accessibility and its existing gaps. The World Health Organization’s 2023 Fact Sheet estimates that 1.3 billion people experience a significant disability—about 16 percent of the world’s population. According to Houtenville et al in the 2023 Annual Report on People with Disabilities in America, of those with hearing, vision, ambulatory and/or cognitive disabilities, 32.4 percent or 6.5 million people also report having an independent living disability. This figure suggests that 32.4 percent of those in the United States with a disability or disabilities experience barriers to full participation or a lack of accessibility in society. When comparing this figure to the U.S. population, more than three percent, or about 6.5 million, of Americans ages 18-64 experience barriers to full participation or a lack of accessibility in society.

The benefits of accessibility are hard to measure. According to the WHO, assistive technology is an adaptation, device or tool that can maintain or improve individuals’ functionality. Thus, it is one method to improve accessibility. Albala et al in Assistive Technology 2021 conducted a literature review on the benefits of assistive technology. They found that assistive technology would produce improvements in economic and social productivity but called on further research to strengthen their evidence.

The question remains, how do we improve accessibility? Below are three initial steps you can use to begin improving accessibility in your work. 

  1. Research disability and be aware as you conduct your work. The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey categorizes disability types as hearing, vision, ambulatory, cognitive, self-care and independent living. Though these categories are not all inclusive and severity of disability within each varies, they provide search queries. Research and consider how each of these groups would interact with the work you produce.
  2. Communicate pre-existing accessibility practices and invite accommodation requests. Communicate what you are already doing for accessibility, whether that is an accessible entrance, closed captioning or a virtual option. Then, to ensure you capture any unpredicted needs, provide a space for people to communicate that to you.
  3. Develop your materials using accessibility best practices. If you develop your materials using accessible best practices at the start (before making them into a PDF or other non-editable format) you will save tons time through fewer corrections or recreating materials. Most software products (including Microsoft 365) have guides on developing accessible materials.

These steps are in no way everything needed to improve accessibility, but by educating yourself, establishing communication and putting accessibility into practice you can create a foundation. Once these are established, you can begin making further policy and practice changes to reform your or your organization’s accessibility.

Below is a list of further resources where you can use to begin making the world more accessible.

Author: Sawyer B. Rogers is in the Atlantis Program pursuing a Master of Public Administration at Syracuse University and a Master of Public Policy at the Hertie School in Berlin, Germany. He is a former adjunct staff member at the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability and has taught (dis)ability topics at Phillips Exeter Academy’s Exeter Summer. He currently conducts accessibility checks for the Qualitative Data Repository based at Syracuse University. He can be reached via [email protected].

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 4.60 out of 5)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *