Accessibility for All — Even in the Digital World
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In America, these are basic human rights. They have been since 1777. And yet in 2019, not everyone can access them.
The Information Age is upon us, and liberty has a whole new meaning. We’re living in the Internet of Things, where we can summon a car with the swipe of finger or get the latest news buzzed to our smartwatches.
The internet can give us all more freedom than ever — especially people living with physical limitations. For a grandmother with arthritis, a simple voice command can turn on the lights or control the thermostat. For someone with a visual impairment, a website designed with screen-reader capabilities can help them apply for a new job.
For people with disabilities, technology means independence — but that’s only if we make it accessible.
Accessibility is something we think about a lot at Nebo. As a marketing agency, it’s our job to build digital experiences that connect with people. And as a human-centered marketing agency, it’s our job to make sure those experiences are accessible to everyone. That’s why, a while back, we decided to make every digital experience we build ADA compliant from the start.
If you’re in marketing, you’ve probably heard the phrase “ADA compliance” thrown around, but you might not know the history. ADA stands for Americans with Disabilities Act, a bill that was first drafted all the way back in 1986, before the world wide web was born. The original bill was designed to mandate accessibility in public spaces. The ADA is the reason public spaces have ramps, Braille, handicap parking and more today.
But passing the Americans with Disabilities Act wasn’t easy. Churches claimed the ADA was an intrusion on religious spaces. The business community made a case against ADA regulations to congress. They claimed that the costs of adding ramps and otherwise rebuilding their public storefronts for accessibility would be too expensive, too time-consuming and too burdensome.
Four years after it was drafted, the Americans with Disabilities Act still hadn’t been signed into law. The disability community had had enough.
On March 12, 1990, over 1,000 protesters descended upon Washington D.C. Protesters with physical disabilities gathered in front of the capitol building, shed their wheelchairs, crutches, power chairs and other assistive devices, and then proceeded to crawl up all 100 of the capitol’s front steps. This became known as the famous Capitol Crawl, and it reportedly “inconvenienced” several senators and ultimately pushed them to approve the act on July 26, 1990.
As our world changed, so did the definition of “public space.” In 2010, the Department of Justice published official standards for accessible design, including the world’s largest public space: the cyberworld. These new standards mandated that all electronic and information technology meant for public use be accessible to people with disabilities. For brands and digital marketers, this meant designing ADA-compliant digital experiences.
Nine years later, not all brands have caught up with ADA regulations. All too many businesses have the same attitude as they did 30 years ago. Building accessible digital experiences will be too expensive, or take too much time. They’re in a hurry to compete and launch new digital experiences — accessibility is something they can get to “later.”
Here at Nebo, we design each and every digital experience — from mobile to desktop and beyond — with accessibility in mind. That means all of our projects at Nebo meet the ADA standards. Assistive technologies, such as screen readers, can be used with our sites, and our projects never rely on color alone to convey information.
We’re passionate about designing kickass digital experiences, and we want everyone to be able to enjoy them.
Today is National Disability Independence Day, the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We’re calling on all marketers and brands to join us in making the world a better place — starting with cyberspace.
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