What is accessibility and why does it matter? Part 2 of a series introducing accessibility, assistive devices and technology, inclusive design, and web accessibility standards and tools. Will include asides on why language matters, the medical vs social models of disability, why Comic Sans isn't the worst thing ever, and fun with acronyms - WCAG, POUR, ARIA and more!
Why does accessibility matter? Aside from your desire to follow Wheaton's Law, the reality is that most of us own, work or contract for for-profit businesses and must consider time and money in all things (and non-profits can be even more constrained). In our day-to-day work accessibility has the tendency to fall by the wayside as something too hard, too complicated, and/or too niche. Leaving the supposed difficulty and complexity of accessibility for future articles, is accessibility is actually too niche?
Did you know that approximately 14% of the Canadian population over 15 has a disability? That's one out of every 7 people. And the prevalence of disabilities increases with age - four percent of people 15-24 have a disability, but 43% of people 73 and older have a disability. For the working age population (those 15 to 64), the rate is one in 10.
- Is losing 10% of your views/click throughs/customers a good thing? What about potential lawsuits? (I'm unaware of any lawsuits of this type in Canada, but they're becoming more common in the US.)
Did you know that the most common categories of disabilities are those related to pain, flexibility and mobility, followed by mental health, dexterity, hearing and then seeing, learning, and memory?
- If you only require your site or application to work for users with screen readers, you've skipped six more common disability categories (and not everyone with visual impairments needs or uses a screen reader).
Did you know that three-quarters of people with disabilities reported more than one type? For example, people who reported learning disabilities also reported memory (54%), seeing (34%) and dexterity (40%) disabilities.
- As much as we group and categorize disabilities, people are individuals before anything else, and that applies to our disabilities, symptoms and accessibility needs as well.
Did you know that for the population of people with disabilities, less than a quarter had the support services, curriculum modifications, additional testing time or assistive devices/technology they needed while attending school?
- Consider the University of California, Berkley who are removing over 20,000 publicly available educational videos, rather than caption them. This closes the Department of Justice complaint from the general public, but what about students who attend the University and still have (theoretical) access?
Did you know that people with disabilities are less likely to graduate high school? 80% of working age people with disabilities (PwD) had at least a high school diploma, compared to 89% of people without disabilities. In addition, 20% of PwD had less than a high school diploma (compared to 11% of people without disabilities), and 14% of PwD had at least a university certificate, diploma or degree (compared to 27% of people without disabilities).
- Accessibility should be a top concern for all industries, but even more so in edTech. The Internet was supposed to be the Great Equalizer, but how is that possible if PwD can't actually use it?
Did you know that less than half of working age PwD are employed, versus 75% for people without disabilities? And when they are employed, PwD have a median income of $10,000 less than those without disabilities. In addition, over a quarter of PwD haven't disclosed to their employer.
- People with disabilities aren't just your customers, they're also you, me, and your family, friends and co-workers. Most buildings are required by law to be physically accessible (depending on when they were built), but are your policies, processes and internal tools accessible, inclusive, and supportive?
Sure doesn't sound like a niche concern to me!
All statistics from A profile of persons with disabilities among Canadians aged 15 years or older, 2012. The data for this report was gathered via the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD), which targeted people "who not only have difficulty or impairment due to a long-term condition or health problem, but also experience a limitation in their daily activities. The CSD definition includes not only people who reported being 'sometimes,' 'often' or 'always' limited in their daily activities due to a long-term condition or health problem, but also those who reported being 'rarely' limited if they were also unable to do certain tasks or could do them only with a lot of difficulty."