As a user advocate, one of my personal concerns with web design and programming is making web sites and applications accessible to everybody. That includes disabled persons and those who rely on mobile or smaller devices to use the Internet.
It’s a very hard sell. While I always plant seeds with my clients, it’s a rare one that wants to purposely go over their code to be sure it meets disability standards (aka “Section 508″ and “PAS 78″). Or, someone will push it off because they feel their alt attributes behind images meets the requirements.
Data released by the folks at PEW provided some saddening news. Susannah Fox wrote, in What people living with disability can teach us,
The Pew Internet Project recently issued a short report noting that people living with disability are less likely than other adults in the U.S. to use the internet: 54%, compared with 81%. The first question many people ask when they hear that is, Why? The second is, What can be done? The third is, or should be, What can we learn from this?
What struck me from their research was I had believed blockages to Internet usage by those with disabilities was mainly the fault of web site owners. As it turns out, it’s poor standards of living that are hurting these people. Living on disability lowers one’s income or a large portion of income goes towards ongoing care and treatment. Poverty prevents access to computers and broadband internet access. It’s not as if some of these people can simply hop in a car to use a library computer or if they have one, jump on public Wi-Fi somewhere.
Pew Internet’s research has consistently shown that broadband access and mobile access deepen an internet user’s relationship with the online world. — Download the PEW Report from Americans living with a disability are less likely than other adults to use the internet
I know I take it for granted that I have access to the world thanks to my cell phone, e-reader and computers. Imagine what it’s like to not be able to seek jobs, research health topics, email family and friends and access the countless ways the internet can exercise your brain.
If this topic interests you, What people living with disability can teach us links to other insightful write-ups and commentary.