How COVID put Digital Accessibility Into The Spotlight
In the virtual world, inclusion is truly for everybody.
Years leading to this pandemic, I was heartbroken with how digital accessibility is poorly implemented here in my country. with a broken heart, I decided to put my love for programming in the backseat. The inaccessibility of work tools in my first learning ground and the absence of alternative accessible tools frustrated me down to the core. I went through depression, questioned my skills, and developed insecurities over my blindness. I’m sure I’m not the only blind person in this country who went through unimaginable depression simply because of these society-made limitations.
In that season of darkness, I bet what made the difference was rather than dwelling on what pinned me down, I faced my enemy head-on and swore to advocate for digital accessibility and inclusion in every single way I can.
I initially tried my luck here in our country, but since I do not have the personality, the branding and my advocacies in my own land didn’t materialize as planned. Stubborn as I am, I didn’t stop. I went on finding ways and what I thought to be another failure turned out to be an open door for bigger blessings.
I virtually stepped out the borders and luckily, there I was given the shot that I needed. The interesting global community of digital accessibility opened up for me. though it didn’t directly impact my own community back then, I embraced the opportunity nonetheless, and there I managed to rebuild myself. I met new people, new mentors, and new colleagues who gave me the opportunity I badly needed. They gave me the equal chance that I longed for. I once again learned to spread my wings. I was provided with inclusive training, got mixed in a highly inclusive culture, and above all, was provided with accessible work tools. I’ve learned accessibility in-depth and even had the chance to hone my first love – writing, alongside the tech-related matters that I’m doing.
Now that the world is off-balanced because of this COVID enemy, we were left with no choice but to embrace a new normal. A world where almost everything was transported into the virtual world. Because of this shift, digital accessibility, usability, and inclusion started to gain the value and appreciation that it deserved. Pre-COVID days, the online world is just our plan B. now, it became our new normal.
Education, employment, and even our access to basic commodities such as food, groceries, Schools, banking services, and now even telemedicine are now primarily online. It is a basic human right to have access to these services, especially in this season of a pandemic. No exemptions applied. Whether you have a disability, or you are simply not tech savvy, everyone is entitled to enjoy these services, and this is where accessibility and usability fit.
In the education sector alone, colleges and universities are forced to offer online classes, which caused reimbursements for other school fees. How is it then for students with disabilities? Are they guaranteed to access these platforms? Thinking forward, imagine the money each student can save when it is no longer necessary to spend on transportation, rent, and other miscellaneous expenses. This would be most helpful for persons with disabilities, for they would no longer need to face the danger of commuting, discrimination, and other factors that hinders them to attain good quality of education.
In the employment scene, if work tools become perfectly accessible, unemployment for persons with disabilities will definitely drop. Probably, depressing moments for PWDs, like what I experienced before, will also decrease.
On day-to-day activities like shopping, banking, and now, telemedicine, how convenient life could be, if these services become perfectly available not just to the majority, but to everybody, especially the minority. Independent living will definitely be promoted.
I hope the lessons we learned, especially those about accessibility and inclusion will remain in the post-COVID world. May it not just be about a pleasant user experience, but an “accessible”, “inclusive” pleasant user experience. The key here is accessibility and inclusion. After all, accessibility and inclusion are not just for persons with disabilities, it is in truth, they for everybody. Days of selective inclusion must end.
Advocacies for inclusion will never be truly inclusive if they will remain selective. true inclusion means including all social status, all kinds of abilities, gender identity, age, religion, and all types of diversities. How wonderful a world where exclusion is absent because true inclusion is the norm.