Accessibility creates accessibility

Have you ever used an automatic door? Used a ramp instead of the stairs? Or enjoyed subtitles on your Facebook videos or Netflix? All of these features exist for accessibility reasons. They are meant to allow people with disabilities to access and participate in society.

It’s said only people who think about accessibility are the people who need it: those with physical, mental, emotional and learning disabilities. But everyone can benefit from accessibility.

According to Statistics Canada, as of 2012, one in seven Canadians 15 years old and older have a disability. Statistics Canada says 1,600,000 Ontarians aged 15 and older have a disability. These people are still fighting to fully participate in their community and live in a world that is accessible to them.

They deserve to be able to participate in everyday society. Ontario has introduced laws to attempt to help make society not only accessible, but easily accessible.

In 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was introduced. The Act is meant to develop, implement and enforce standards for people with disabilities and protects them from discrimination and ableism.

These standards include general requirements, customer service, information and communication, employment, transportation and design of public spaces.

In 2017, the federal government started its first phase in developing federal accessibility- something Canada has fallen behind on. It’s about time things change.

People with disabilities are still struggling to have their needs met.

For example, in 2017, blogger Jacki Andre wrote in the Huffington Post that she went to see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at one of his town hall events.

Andre is hard of hearing and relies on lip reading to understand speech. The notice for the event mentioned that American Sign Language (ASL) was available. Andre does not know ASL, so she asked if the organizers could set up CART for her (communication access real-time translation) which is basically real-time captioning/subtitles.

No one got back to her. According to Andre, no one knew what CART was.

Andre points out CART can help hearing people too. Sometimes acoustics are bad or there’s a “cocktail effect” with too much background and someone can’t hear. CART could solve that problem.

Instead of truly accommodating her, she was seated close to the Prime Minister, at an angle where it would be difficult to lip read. Andre opted to move, and was able to read his lips. But she was unable to hear the other half of the event: the questions. This is simply unacceptable.

It is 2018, accessibility should not still be a problem.

Making things accessible to everyone can boost business, readership and more- you’re opening the markets. According to the Inclusive Design Research Centre at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD), “The standards (AODA) will allow Ontario businesses to achieve new economies of scale possible through inclusive design (ID).”

Inclusive design (ID) is design that is usable and customizable so people of all abilities can use something, whether they’re able-bodied or not. An example is readable text. A clear font makes the general task of reading easier for everyone. Contrast is also ID. No one benefits from the use of low or poor contrast.

OCAD also suggests using ID in the workplace will boost employee productivity, which also positively influences business.

Accessibility creates accessibility. It makes life easier for everyone: remember next time you use an automatic door or enjoy your subtitled videos. Accessibility is something that every person, regardless of ability, should advocate for because it allows everyone to participate in society and can boost the economy. If you notice something is not accessible, or a person with a disability struggling, speak up. The change could help you too.