As another year ends and a new one begins, I find myself asking the question: “Do blind people have more accessibility now?” Sadly, as each year goes by, I keep coming up with the answer “no.”
So, perhaps, I should ask another question: “What do I really want?”
The answer is as simple as its implementation may be quite complex: “I want to be fully included and valued as a human adult with all the rights and responsibilities that status entails.” Put another way: “I don’t want to be left out or set aside because I happen to be blind.”
What does that mean? In as straightforward a way as I can express the sentiment, it means I want to be a productive member of society who is able to support his family and himself without undue, artificial, discriminatory barriers being imposed on me by companies, individuals or organizations. In my admittedly simplified view, if we are granted comprehensive, nonvisual accessibility to information, technology and transportation, the opportunity to enjoy full, first-class citizenship will follow.
There are many examples of the kind of accessibility I believe would allow me to realize the goal of first-class citizenship. How about a top-ten list?
- I would like to be able to do my job without having it continuously threatened by the thoughtless implementation of inaccessible technology that does not meet internationally-recognized accessibility standards or vendors’ developer guidelines.
- I want to make a cup of coffee in the morning without worrying about the power and brewing lights I can’t see.
- I would like to be able to fill out my time sheet on terms of equality with my sighted co-workers.
- I want to cook dinner knowing, for certain, that I have the oven set correctly.
- I would like to be able to update the apps on my iPhone, confident that each update will be at least as accessible, if not better, than the previous version.
- I want to do business with IRS, Social Security and other government agencies in ways that are fully accessible to me without the burden of intervention by third parties.
- I would like my accessibility needs to be met in a sustainable manner that works well for everyone, every time, without constantly re-inventing the wheel!
- I want to sign documents, exchange correspondence, access my medical records, and do all manner of other similar forms of business, all without the financial cost and loss of privacy that comes along with relying on a sighted reader.
- It would be nice to be able to go shopping, either online or at a brick-and-mortar store, independently, with dignity and without the bother of an inaccessible website or the need to have help from a customer service person who couldn’t care less.
- When I communicate with agencies, companies, individuals and organizations about accessibility concerns, I would like them to be taken for the serious, human rights issues they actually are, instead of being patted on the head, set aside and told to wait!
These, of course, represent just a drop in the bucket! I know… I want so much. I am high maintenance: a real accessibility diva! How could anyone possibly imagine that a blind person, like myself, might simply want to avail himself of all the same opportunities as sighted people? After all, how do I even manage to get out of bed, go to the bathroom or poor my own orange juice, for Heaven’s sake?
Since I don’t live in the fantasy world I have just described, and there’s no evidence flying unicorns will be discovered anytime soon, what will I resolve to do to make things better?
- Love and support my family and myself in the less-than-accessible world in which we cope daily.
- Educate myself more formally about topics relevant to the accessibility and assistive technology industries.
- Take at least one action to resist any case of inaccessibility that comes up while striving for balance with the need to prioritize and pick my battles effectively.
- Evangelize accessibility and provide agencies, companies, individuals and organizations with effective solutions and resources to move forward in a positive direction.
- Provide accessibility and assistive technology testing, training and encouragement in helpful ways that appropriately value my effort, money and time.
So, now, fellow readers, what will you do? Will you join me? In this new year, will you strive to overcome daily by doing all you can, each in your own way, to move accessibility forward? Will you stand up and say, yes! We can, with equal opportunity and accessibility, live the lives we want?