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Accessibility: Expanding the Definition

caleb_rudder profile image Caleb Rudder ・3 min read

Accessibility is becoming a topic that we are hearing more and more about as developers are discovering that people with special needs often have trouble with websites that don't meet accessibility standards. So what is accessibility? Another dev contributor, Laura, has recently written an article about that and can be found here.

Don't get me wrong, I believe that Laura does a great job in discussing what accessibility means and how we can do a better job as developers in making the web more accessible to everyone. The discussion I am wanting to have is to expand the definition of accessibility to include other people. Often when we talk about accessibility, the only people we discuss are those with special needs or those who fall under the disabled category. While I think that conversation is great, I believe we have neglected others from this conversation. When I say this, I'm not talking about myself, my colleagues or privileged able people. The people that I am wanting to include in this definition are the people who have been marginalized due to their economic and financial situation.

"The people that I am wanting to include in this definition are the people who have been marginalized due to their economic and financial situation."

So what do I mean by the people who have been marginalized due to their economic and financial situation?

This past week I was scrolling through twitter and I came across a thread that addresses a situation where the web was not accessible to a person who was not financially able to own a phone or a computer. The entire thread can found here, but the gist of it is this: A woman who is currently in a tough situation goes to apply for a job as a custodial worker and is told to go to their website to apply. She is staying in a shelter currently so she goes to the library to use the public computer. The woman doesn't really know what she is doing and seeks out help from a younger woman in the library. They begin working together on the application, but when it comes time to apply they realize that the woman applying needs to have an email address in order to access this company's application portal. The younger woman tries to help her set up an email account, but soon realizes that all of these email providers require two factor authentication and the older woman trying to apply does not have a cell phone. In fact, the only phone number she has is a landline number to the shelter she is staying in. Ultimately this leads to the woman not being able to apply for this position and having to leave. Due to the inaccessibility of email, this woman is denied the ability to better her circumstance, and the poverty cycle is perpetuated.

"Due to the inaccessibility of email, this woman is denied the ability to better her circumstance, and the poverty cycle is perpetuated."

I have always thought that two factor authentication was great and one of the best ways to authenticate users, but I had never considered the possible consequences it could have. As developers it is our job to make sure that the sites and apps that we create are secure and that our user's data will not be compromised. On the other hand, it is also our job to keep the web accessible to all people no matter how you are abled, your financial status or your comprehension of technology.

While I don't have a solution to this issue right now, it is one that I believe we need to address. So, what are your thoughts?

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