Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cunningham: Accessibility covers four groups

At, author Katie Cunningham addresses a belief held by business owners and website administrators concerning accessibility: that there are so few people with disabilities in the world that, statistically, it is highly probable that none of these are using the product or site. She states:
“The idea of the disabled being a small number usually begins with the misconception that web accessibility is all about the blind. Though many of the efforts towards an accessible web aim at the visually impaired, there’s actually more to it than that.”
Accessibility, according to Cunningham, actually covers four groups: people with visual, physical, hearing and cognitive impairments. Cunningham explains issues of accessibility as they pertain to each one.

“One side of accessibility that most people forget is that anyone, at any time, can suddenly be under the umbrella of the disabled,” Cunningham states.
“It could be as simple as leaving your headphones at home the day you have to do some video training at your desk. It could be an injury to your dominant hand, making navigating websites and typing quickly impossible. You can forget your glasses at home. You might be on a painkiller and find yourself having to navigate your insurance company’s online forms.
“Or it can be time.
“As we age, we start to fit into the above categories. Our hearing might go, or our vision. We might develop arthritis or Parkinson’s, hurting our ability to mouse and type. We might even develop dementia or Alzheimer’s, where our cognitive abilities slowly fade.”

Cunningham’s essay offers a thoughtful perspective on accessibility and making a case for its value. As a woman on the autism spectrum, this issue of of direct importance to me.

My thanks to Twitter user M. Edward Borasky for sharing the link.

Katie Cunningham is the author of Accessibility Handbook (O’Reilly Media). Her bio notes that she is a Python developer for Cox Media Group and lives in Washington, DC with her husband and two children.

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