Image of a Healthcare website on a computer monitor.

Accessibility During an Outbreak: Public Safety Includes ALL Members of the Public

Written by: Derek Featherstone

Amidst all the uncertainty and increased focus on public health, people will be asked to make all materials accessible. That will include:

  • websites providing critical info about the coronavirus, its spread, and prevention measures
  • social media posts
  • emails
  • resources on effective remote working
  • educational resources and learning materials

As we turn towards a society that is more remote / asynchronous vs. one that is live and in-person, all of these things (and more) will need to be accessible to people with disabilities, the aging population, and English language learners.

There will be pushback.

People will say things like, “Every second counts. We have to get this information out to people right away. We don’t have time to make it accessible.”

You’re right.

Every second counts.

They count for people with disabilities too. They might even count more for them.

For example, let’s say you create something, screenshot it, and send it out via Twitter. It’s an important announcement about a local place where it was just discovered someone had infected others with the virus. But you post it as an image with no alternative text, which means those with visual disabilities cannot read it.

We must not treat people with disabilities like second class citizens. They need that information too.

It is simply not acceptable in a public health crisis (or any other crisis for that matter) to provide information or details to people with disabilities later than people without. Public safety includes ALL members of the public.

Public organizations’ websites are getting crushed under the weight of people looking for details and information online. They are over capacity and can’t handle the load, because for many, their performance is stuck in 2008.

Every organization needs to have a crisis mode website that is highly performant and accessible. Of course, we could just make sure that every website is highly performant and accessible by default. But a switch to “crisis mode” would be a huge help in so many ways. No fluff. No ads. Just a trusted source of information that is quick and easy to access for everyone.

There are a lot of lessons this will teach us all. We cannot have people with disabilities living in a world where their health is in more danger than everyone else’s because they didn’t have access to the same information.

This sucks for everyone, I know. Let’s make it not suck even more for people with disabilities.

Stay safe everyone.

– Derek

Twitter thread reference