Universal accessibility in the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) sector holds unparalleled promise and opportunity for people with disabilities never before seen in America’s history.
Many people are surprised to learn just how much of the world’s population is affected by a disability, and how valuable accessible design of ICT is to U.S. and international governments, private industries, and educational institutions.
To understand the impact one has to look no further than the World Health Organization which indicates that people with disabilities are the world’s largest and fastest growing minority group. With the population of the United States aging, and the likelihood of developing a disability or other mobility limitation increasing with age, the growth in the number of people with disabilities can be expected to rise dramatically. Also impacting this formula is the growing population of veterans with disabilities.
This is an exciting time, of great promise and opportunity for people of all abilities. This is a new era for America’s citizens, one where emerging new technologies and mobile computing devices are serving as enablers for people of all ages and all levels of education. Designing and delivering ICT to be fully accessible ensures all our citizens can enjoy the benefits and advantages of technology to enrich their lives and fulfill their dreams.
An inclusive and universal design approach to technology is critical to both government agencies and private industry wishing to anticipate future needs of this growing population. By recognizing the importance of the protection and promotion of the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities through assistive technology, the world is just beginning to strengthen policies, strategies, and programs along with an increase in awareness of the public at large of the importance of the issue of disability and assistive technology.
Experts report that the most simple and cost effective solutions are often ignored or overlooked, a mistake that organizations and governmental bodies can no longer make when serving all citizens in equal fashion. Making technology usable for all has become imperative for unleashing the potential of all Americans and is critical for any government agency wishing to remain relevant in the 21st century.
Providing accessible ICT products and services also benefits the growing population affected by age-related impairments, in addition to people with disabilities.
Nations across the world are currently adopting new laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, as well as increasing the protection of civil rights for people with disabilities and expanding freedoms for all.
Demand for accessible technology and services will continue to rise as well as the public’s understanding of, and requirement for, technology that is usable by every citizen.
What can you do? Think about what you can do to better reach people with disabilities, and find creative ways to make it happen through accessible technology. Move beyond general steps to protect and promote the rights of people with disabilities, ensure that accessibility is addressed in all policies and programs, promote training on the human rights of persons with disabilities, stop any practice that breach the rights of people with disabilities, and involve people with disabilities in the development of legislation and policies.