What on Earth Does the Coronavirus Have to Do with Digital Accessibility?

March 6, 2020

For those in the web and digital accessibility space, and especially for those with disabilities or impairments that impact their use of websites and digital platforms, accessibility is always on their radar. Sometimes for others, it takes a big event or an Aha! moment for the importance of accessibility to be recognized. For many individuals and organizations, the Coronavirus health concern is quickly becoming one of those events.

Many of the country's largest companies and biggest employers have responded to the news and the unknowns of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) by limiting travel, canceling or postponing large events, replacing in-person events with virtual ones, and allowing or even requiring some people to work remotely — and many smaller companies are following suit. Additionally and understandably, many individuals, especially in some areas, are making the personal choice to limit their unnecessary contact with others and to limit their own travel or exposure to heavily-populated places.

So, what does the Coronavirus have to do with accessibility?

It's a good question, as are these: Does an employee who is deaf have remote access to an accurate transcription of the audio portion of today's big presentation? Was the PDF that was sent out to employees to let them know who to contact in an emergency properly tagged so that an employee who is blind and uses a screen reader can get that same information independently? Is the company prepared for remote work for all employees, or just those without disabilities that change the way they use the web?

So, what does the Coronavirus have to do with accessibility?

It's a good question, as are these: Can a customer who uses a keyboard instead of a mouse and who isn't comfortable going to the mall to make a purchase make full use of the online shopping site? Can a citizen who has low vision and needs to learn about how their county is responding to the Coronavirus get this critical information online? Is access to services and information available to all people, or just those without disabilities that change the way they use the web?

That is what the Coronavirus has to do with accessibility.

Sure, this is newer and grander than most realizations one might have about how critical digital accessibility is in real people's lives, but for many, it's just the latest example. We often talk about how accessibility isn't a one-time fix. Well, it also isn't a one-time need. It is a civil right.

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