Let’s Aim to Achieve True Global Accessibility
On May 21, the world celebrated its ninth Global Accessibility Awareness Day, but accessibility awareness hasn’t yet risen to its deserved level of interest. The awareness day website shares a great picture of this initiative’s potential scale: there are about a billion people with visual, hearing, motor, or cognitive impairments. Worldwide, about one in every eight people have to fight for accessibility.
Issues of accessibility have been top of mind for me. I have written about these issues often, from both advocacy-driven and creative-living perspectives. There is no bigger issue for people with disabilities. We spend every moment of the day thinking about how we will obtain what we need to live.
My most recent column on this topic was a couple of months ago, when I examined how we battle with these issues in society. If you read that column, you have a sense of the frustration we have with accessibility and with the need to fight societal gaps even 30 years after the passage of Americans with Disabilities Act.
Back in January, I wrote about how society is missing the true meaning of inclusion. In that column I presented a point of view on how society maintains its own prejudice. By not allowing for complete accessibility, those with disabilities disappear. Able-bodied individuals can be out enjoying life without even seeing people with disabilities.
The website for Global Accessibility Awareness Day does a good job of giving us hope. In their words, “Accessibility Removes Barriers and Unlocks the Possible.” They provide some examples of how inclusiveness can change the lives of so many people around the world. These efforts need a bigger stage and a daily message. Having this special day is great, but we need to understand that organizations must focus on these issues all the time.
Timing their announcement around Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Google released some new features this week that can have a global impact. I also wrote a column about accessibility and travel. One of the services I assessed was an organization called Mobility Mojo. They have done great work in rating hotels’ accessibility. Google has begun to add to this type of information.
With their new emphasis on disabilities and accessibility, Google has added three services.
The first is the most intriguing to me: Google Maps now helps users to find wheelchair-accessible locations. The site mentions that there are 130 million wheelchair users in the world. And in the U.S., we have 30 million people who have trouble with stairs. That is exactly my situation. I may suggest some additional enhancements related to types of seating, but it’s huge to know whether I will have accessibility before I head to a location. I commend Google for this addition.
My hope is that these types of informational enhancements begin to appear everywhere. Society needs to be more cognizant of the fact that there are so many individuals who need this information, and by making it more top of mind, we will see improvements in accessibility.
Google is also working on education. The “A is for accessibility” initiative looks at improving remote learning. We know that students with disabilities can thrive. They need the right environment that meets their needs. I envision distance learning having a much bigger footprint in the future. Google is looking at resources to help this along.
The final initiative focuses on people with hearing loss, deafness, and cognitive impairments. A new app allows people with disabilities to do tasks with one tap that usually are more complicated. It seems to me that this would be helpful for all people.
We have come a long way in the fight to obtain full accessibility for all. I applaud all companies that are thinking about these issues. We still have a long way to go, but solutions are coming. I want us to think about accessibility every day, not just on the one day set aside to build global accessibility awareness. The world is ours for the taking — let’s make it reachable!
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