How Coronavirus Emphasizes the Need for Accessibility

This time will show us both how easy it is to make work, education, and services accessible, and how reliant we still are on our inaccessible systems.

3 min

Amid the uncertainty and caution during the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, large companies and employers are responding with changes for their customers, users, and employees. People are isolating in their homes. Work takes place in the home (for many). Only "essential" in-person business interactions continue. Now, the importance of accessibility is brought into full relief. There are many things that organizations should always consider about accessibility. The current global situation has only highlighted those:

Are we sharing information in an accessible format?

Organizations and officials must share crucial information in accessible formats. Was that PDF sent out to community members about grocery delivery services properly tagged so that a person who is blind and uses a screen reader can get the same information independently? Even beyond accessible technologies, information can and should be presented in multiple languages. Public information should have a 6th-grade reading level and include visual representations for those who might not be able to read the content.

Are we truly supporting remote workers?

Moving to remote work has been a huge shift for many organizations. Travel is limited. Meetings and conferences are now video chats. Presentation materials are shared more readily over email or Slack. Companies are necessarily supporting people to continue their best work from home. The success of these efforts during this time should be a testament to the value of investing sustainably in remote accessibility.

Disability advocates like Karrie Higgins are quick to point out that remote accommodations have long been requested by people in the disability community, and long been denied. It seems online instruction, paying for sick leave, and single-use products are only worthwhile for organizations to provide now that the health of able-bodied people is at stake. The investments made now have to carry forward for the individuals who need them.

Are we creating accessible experiences and services?

Brick and mortar stores are shifting their efforts to online shopping experiences. Delivery apps are experiencing a surge in usage. Online experiences are now the necessary means of interacting with a product or service. Companies with inaccessible online experiences are shutting off contact with customers.

Web accessibility guidelines help organizations develop accessible experiences. For example, keyboard users will be able to make those online purchases while they can’t go to the mall. Even after operations return to "normal," teams can continue developing websites and applications that are simple and intuitive for all users, not just those without disabilities who might be using the web a bit differently.

This time will show us both how easy it is to make work, education, and services accessible, and how reliant we still are on our inaccessible systems.

Perhaps, once this has passed, we can collectively realize that accessibility isn’t an optional add-on. Accessibility is a civil right.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn