Veterans Day is observed every year on November 11 to honor the great veterans who have served. The day is a reminder to say thank you to our service members for their bravery and sacrifice, and for many that includes service-related disabilities.
One way to honor veterans is to ensure that disabilities, like those resulting from military service protecting our nation, don't unnecessarily prevent them from accessing public goods and services, including those online.
Disabilities can change the way people interact with the digital world. From compatibility with assistive technology to allowing users enough time to complete their tasks, accessibility helps to remove digital barriers. Unfortunately, most websites and apps today fall short and we have an obligation to change that.
Some of the most common veteran disabilities include tinnitus, hearing loss, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), lumbosacral or cervical strain, scars, limited flexion of the knee, paralysis of the sciatic nerve, limitation of motion of the ankle, diabetes mellitus, and migraine headaches. Additionally, it's reported that post-9/11 veterans have a much higher disability rate than earlier generations, about 41% compared to about 25%.
Of course, not all disabilities that veterans have are directly related to their service. As they age, they're subject to the same increase in disabilities as the general population.
Currently, over 130,000 veterans are legally blind and over a million have low vision. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, those numbers will rise "in the years ahead as more Veterans from the Korean and Vietnam conflict eras develop vision loss from age-related diseases such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma."
The principles and best practices of accessibility are critical to apply to all websites, apps, electronic documents, kiosks, and any material that is used digitally. These practices are the difference between people with disabilities, like the millions who have served in our military, being able to independently consume and contribute to content, or being unnecessarily prevented from doing so.