Disability Solutions Through Technology

Accessible ICT

Accessibility Matters

Accessibility Matters

You put a lot of effort into making sure your slideshows, webpages, forms, documents, and more are neat and presentable, but can everyone access them?

The KATS Network is pleased to offer an updated version of our “Accessibility Matters” quick cards.  These free printable cards offer simple but often overlooked tips and advice that you can immediately incorporate into your day-to-day workflow.

Accessibility Matters Quick Cards (pdf)

According to the Advocacy Action Network, there are more than 874,000 Kentuckians with disabilities. Many of these disabilities could potentially create barriers that directly affect their ability to access digital information. As the pandemic has increasingly pushed us to shift our focus to virtual service delivery, the need to create accessible documents is becoming increasingly more apparent.

As employees of state government, we must provide information technology to our employees, program participants, and the public that is accessible. This includes everything from websites, memos, emails, brochures, videos, and more. There are several laws on both the state and federal level that ensure just that. In Kentucky, we have the Accessible Information Technology (AIT) Law, and on the Federal side, there is Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act. There are also potential implications under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C):

The Web is an increasingly important resource in many aspects of life: education, employment, government, commerce, health care, recreation, and more. It is essential that the Web be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with diverse abilities. Access to information and communications technologies, including the Web, is defined as a basic human right in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).

World Wide Web Consortium W3C

As a 14-year (contract) employee of the state, I can say that we have not always done our part. I take ownership of this as I have not always been without fault. Over the years, I have seen numerous emails, memos, forms, webpages, and more go out without consideration of accessibility. It has happened at all levels and continues to happen to this day.

More often than not, I hear comments such as, “But we don’t have any of those people working here” or “We serve so few disabled people”, or even “We don’t have any blind consumers/employees, so that doesn’t apply to us”. We all know this is not acceptable, but more often than not, I have likewise seen many of my disabled friends and co-workers dismiss this lack of awareness as “typical”, something they have come to expect and accept as the norm.

For years, many of my co-workers and I have preached on the importance of ensuring accessibility within our agency. We have provided training to staff within our own agency and throughout the state on accessibility. Nevertheless, we would continue every day to see inaccessible emails, memos, forms, and webpages going out. Many times, even after providing such training, we would hear “lack of awareness” cited as the reason that accessibility is not considered or viewed as important.

As we closed out 2020, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation established an accessibility workgroup, tasked with ensuring that all communications that go out to our employees and consumers meet strict accessibility standards. We have employees from each Branch within the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation represented, including employees with disabilities.

Our vision is to become the gold standard of accessible information technology within State government here in the Commonwealth. The agency that all others look to as an example of one that does it right. Finally, we begin the process of making a positive move forward to ensure accessibility across all that we do while setting the standard for everyone else to follow!

Thank you to the Minnesota Office of Accessibility for creating the original Accessibility Matters quick cards and allowing us to adapt and share them with State government employees here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

As I close out, I want to share some additional resources that you can use to ensure that you are doing your part in providing accessible digital information to your staff and the people you serve.