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Web Accessibility and the Fourth of July: Celebrating Independence in More Ways Than One

Jul 4, 2019

On the Fourth of July, we celebrate our independence as a nation that collectively values freedom and liberty. It also feels like an appropriate time to celebrate and reflect on what independence means for the individual and how prioritizing accessibility can enable some individuals with disabilities to live more independently in the digital age.

25% of adults in the United States have a disability

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 4 adults (61 million people) has a disability. That number grows to 40% over age 65. Further, by 2030, people 65 years and older will outnumber children for the first time in our country's history.

Accessibility empowers more people to act independently

Web accessibility has been around for decades and has helped remove barriers to receiving and contributing to information in the digital space that historically prevented the inclusion of the large populations of people with disabilities in our country and worldwide.

Related: The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) turned 20 this year.

There is no simpler way to put it

When websites and apps are built or fixed to be accessible, people with disabilities are able to do the things online that people without disabilities are able to do. Prioritizing accessibility is the only way this happens — it is the only way many people with disabilities are empowered to browse and work and shop and click and like and post and read and learn online with true independence.

When websites and apps are not accessible, that independence is replaced with discrimination on the basis of disability.

Independence doesn't mean being limited to certain things

It isn't enough to make all government websites accessible, for example, or to make sure people with disabilities can use e-commerce sites. Independence requires a level of autonomy across the board, both in action and in decision — when someone's ability to act has been determined by the decision of another, not their own, that autonomy is gone. Instead, people need the ability to freely navigate the digital world.

Consider the recent story that Not a Single 2020 Presidential Candidate's Website is Fully Accessible to People with Disabilities. In an instance like this, the American public's ability to participate fully in the democratic process is threatened by inaccessible web experiences.

Here is what Mark Shapiro, president of the Bureau of Internet Accessibility, had to say about it:

"When Americans are prevented from researching presidential candidates due to unnecessary accessibility barriers, the information that people receive and the votes they ultimately cast are altered by discrimination on the basis of disability."

He continued:

"The Americans with Disabilities Act is supposed to ensure this type of scenario never happens; but, at the moment, not only are individual rights being violated, the future of our country is quite literally being shaped by the unfortunate and unnecessary inaccessibility of public digital information."

Related: Accessibility is Privacy and Security

Thank you, accessibility

We're so appreciative for the amazing progress that the talented and dedicated individuals and organizations that work to build an accessible world have achieved. And we're so hopeful that the future will be one that values the differences of everyone, including people with disabilities, and works toward continuing to bridge the digital divide.

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