Accessibility – Able to be reached, approached or entered via Oxford Dictionary
I found myself in the world of accessibility almost by accident. I did not even realise I had specific accessibility needs until I began to go blind.
In real terms I have accessed the world very differently to most because of need, however, I wonder how many really understand that they too use lots of features in accessibility.
It seems that until things become “trendy” or “cool” they are sadly not in the majority of mindsets, so do we try to make accessibility trendy or just hope it becomes a part of early training and education?
Can we really wait for “trendy” as our ageing population increases and their reliance on the ability to access life independently increasingly looks toward technology?
Accessibility is not just about those with disabilities, it is for us all.
I myself have life changing disabilities but also have very unique abilities that have given me an interesting insight into the term accessibility.
I speak at various events to differing audiences and find the general take on accessibility to vary.
At charity events there is a great need to keep those in need not just up to date with available assistive technologies but also in many cases the need for training.
At digital events I often find accessibility considered ‘dealt with’ using a check list and something considered simply for the minorities!
Maybe it is because I see (excuse the pun) things very differently because I have to!
If I ask a room full of people young and old with disabilities do you use accessibility features or assistive technology? the majority would raise their hand.
If I ask a room full of developers and designers young and old the same question usually few hands are raised until I probe a little further – do you wear glasses? have you used zoom on your phone? have you ever watched a film? studied or maybe watched YouTube in a public place and used captions? Used a lift or escalator instead of stairs? virtually all hands go up.
I have also spoken at several events for Y3A and their membership use all manner of assistive technology and would use so much more if they were made more aware and trained on what is available.
My own sister would say she doesn’t use any accessibility features and yet she studies Spanish as a foreign language and watches Spanish films to assist with her understanding and verbal ability and this is assisted with Spanish subtitles – she describes it as a way of “enriched learning” not accessibility and of course she is right (she is always right at 17!).
Of course accessibility for people with disabilities takes on a different meaning, phrases like ‘special assistance’ ‘special needs’ ‘supported needs’ each term indicating a need over and above the norm – to have very specific accessibility needs is different to accessibility as defined in the Oxford Dictionary and therefore why the apparent stigma to admitting the need for basic accessibility?
Over the past 10 years I have discovered just what is possible both with and without useable accessibility features and the results are astounding.
My education confirms this without a doubt:
A senior school without a clue of what to do with me and worse a ‘specialist school’ for the deaf knowing even less in comparison a mainstream college with a positive can do attitude – who chose to listen and learn exactly how I could access information and the desire to see me succeed followed by a university with a poor attitude towards people with needs over and above the norm and not just deafblind.
I am very aware that the way I personally access the world is as a result of my condition and different to many, however the way I do lots of things is very similar to our growing ageing population and indeed I have set up many an iPad for the older generation exactly the same way as I set up my own, I think that tells a story in itself!
So please, when designing and developing pretty isn’t always best, think about accessibility as a tool for the majority to be built in right at the beginning rather than something of a hassle or something simply for minority groups, accessibility is enablement for us all so “Open your window to inclusion”.
Read more of Molly’s articles for Limping Chicken by clicking here.
Molly has Usher Syndrome and spearheads her own charity, The Molly Watt Trust, where she actively raises awareness of Usher Syndrome. She is Sense’s youngest Ambassador, a motivational speaker and avid blogger. Molly can be contacted via her new personal, accessible website www.mollywatt.com or her charity websitewww.molly-watt-trust.org
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