Inaccessible websites reduce the quality of life. It's not theory. This is not a hypothetical situation. This is real discrimination occurring every day.
Those words are Dr. Jonathan Lazar's from his February 13, 2013 presentation, Locked Out: Investigating Societal Discrimination against People with Disabilities Due to Inaccessible Websites.
Dr. Lazar, a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, at Harvard University begins his presentation with an overview of assistive technology and relevant laws and then shares five research studies, which illuminate how inaccessible sites are barriers. The studies are on the topics of 1) Federal-level web accessibility, 2) State-level web accessibility, 3) emergency alerts, 4) pricing discrimination in airlines, and 5) online applications. He concludes his presentation by explaining that these problems are technically solvable and provides concrete suggestions for improvement including:
Suggestions for Educators
For educators Dr. Lazar states:
We want to focus on improving accessibility by teaching it. By making sure it's part of our curriculum. By training the newest generation of technology folks. And not only that, not only do we have to make sure we're training the future, we have to make sure that the technology infrastructure on our campuses are accessible now for students with disabilities who come to campus. Everything from online applications to apply, to registration systems to register for classes, social networking, your course management systems, you know, like Moodle, Sakai, Blackboard. Not only do you have to make sure that the shell system is accessible, the software, but you have to make sure your content is accessible...And faculty can help push this along. So you can make a difference here.
Suggestions for Government and Policy Makers
For government and policy makers Dr. Lazar states:
We need to make sure that we push government, we push policy makers to make sure that enforcement activities and compliance studies are done on a regular basis. So, we need to make sure also that government agencies use procurement processes wisely. So we need to make sure that money being spent is a lever to improve IT accessibility. And the way to do that is through procurement processes.
Suggestions for Developers and Designers
For developers and designers Dr. Lazar states:
We want to make sure, first of all, developers need better tools. We have to have human inspections. Either people with disabilities or experts reading through the code. So we need better tools, but we also need a better understanding of supporting designers and developers.
Locked Out the Video
The following is the full 48 minute video.
A transcript of the video, Locked Out: Investigating Societal Discrimination against People with Disabilities Due to Inaccessible Websites is available.