What about accessibility?

October is National Disability Employment Awareness month (NDEAM), and in the past few days, I have seen several articles and messages bringing this topic to the forefront.  Yesterday, a press release came out of Washington that described some steps that will be taken to help the approximately 54,000,000 Americans with disabilities gain access to employment.  Partnering with, among various agencies, the Employment Opportunity Commission (EOC), President Obama will hold job fairs, trainings and town hall meetings to promote awareness.  His goal is to ensure fair and equal access to employment for all Americans, but particularly those with disabilities.  You can read the full press release at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/President-Obama-Announces-New-Initiatives-during-National-Disability-Employment-Month/

I also saw a very effective video promoting equal opportunities for employment of people with disabilities.  This video featured several people with varying disabilities, showing that they are intelligent and capable, just like any other American.  Not only do they deserve the right to employment, reasonable accommodations and equal pay, but they will earn those rights by contributing their valuable skills and talents to their employers, and to society as a whole.

Last month, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was amended to include people with certain medical conditions in its definition of disability, to ensure that they too are given the rights to equal opportunities.  Just after this amendment was announced, the EOC filed a lawsuit against AT&T for their refusal to hire an applicant simply because he was an insulin-dependent diabetic, despite the fact that he had years of experience and was fully qualified to do the job.  With this amendment, there will be no more discriminating against people with these types of medical conditions!

All of these initiatives and promotions are so exciting for Americans with disabilities, and I have only touched on a few!  However, along with these should also come initiatives to promote greater accessibility of the World-wide Web.  Our Government is giving Americans more access than ever before to it and its practices.  With sites such as recovery.gov, disability.gov and apps.gov out there to connect us with Washington, Americans can actively participate in Government initiatives.  But many facets of these sites are not accessible to all!  Recovery.gov for example is very difficult to use and understand if you cannot see the tables, maps and graphs that are used to relate data.  While these sites have accessibility statements, some of the features discussed do not work properly.  For instance the data tables on recovery.gov do not read with row and column headers clearly defined.  There are various other accessibility issues with this site as Seth Grimes points out on his Intelligent-Enterprise blog.  One of the best quotations from his post is from Gareth Horton, senior product manager at BI Vendor Datawatch, where he says “I would say that in practice, it is likely to “just work,” but the government should do better.”  Even with their efforts for Section 508 compliance, they can make things better with fairly minor changes in some cases.  So while we’re fighting the fight for fair and equal opportunity for employment, let’s add to that an on-going fight for web accessibility, especially on such important and life-changing Government sites!



5 Comments

  1. avatar Kathy Keller Matejek

    You are so right on, Desiree.

  2. Great info! My son is an insulin-dependent diabetic, and its hard to believe people would discriminate against that condition! Its good to see that the laws protect a wider range of people, including people like him now. Makes you wish everyone would always “Focus on what you CAN do” just as the awareness ads say! Wish we didn’t have to have an awareness month, should be that way all the time!

  3. I agree, focus on the positives! Many times when I was interviewing for jobs, if they called me first, I did not tell them that I was blind. Perhaps that is deception, but I wanted them to hear me out and look at my qualifications first. I tried being honest up front, and many times, the buck would stop at the phone interview. I actually got in the door a few times by not saying anything, although I would pay a million bucks to have seen the looks on the faces as their jaws dropped in shock upon seeing me and my pretty guide dog. But then, even in the interviews, you could feel their awkwardness, wondering what they can ask without stepping too far over the line. And then there were those that did not care about the line at all. So to me, it should not matter what you look like, or weather or not you have a disability, but if you are capable and qualified to do the job.

  4. Disability.gov was completely redesigned at the end of July 2009 in order to make the site both more useful and more accessible to all of our users. We have conducted extensive accessibility and usability testing of the redesigned site on a variety of machines using various Web browsers, screen readers and other assistive technology. Our 508 specialists and other accessibility experts found Disability.gov to be fully compliant and accessible based on requirements of Section 508 and W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. We are truly committed to going above and beyond those standards.

    If you experience any accessibility issues while using Disability.gov, please contact us at disability@dol.gov.

    - Kevin Connors, Program Director, Disability.gov

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