Abigail's Story

Last week was a great reminder...

... to me of the importance of making websites ADA compliant so they can be accessed by people with disabilities of all kinds.

There is a large disabled community who are interested in, and deserving of access to, the same information the non-disabled population has. We don't ever want to keep information from someone who is growing & learning simply because we didn't take the time and steps to make that information available to people who already have so many challenges to overcome. The internet, and website information, may be their only window to the world we live in.

My wife and I were invited to talk to a group of 10 and 11 yr olds about our seven years living in Europe. We put together a slideshow of our favorite photos and prepared what we wanted to say to these kids. The teacher who invited us also printed out a world map and "passports" so they would really get a bigger perspective on the world and enrich this learning experience. Their first assignment was to label the four regions they would study this summer, China, Israel, Europe, and Cuba. As an adult, I was challenged in my knowledge of world geography when looking at a blank map, so in order to help them with their task I did what we all do, I 'googled' map of the world.

There was one student in the room who was very interested in this assignment and was asking extra questions like, "Where is Ireland and Thailand?" However, you would never hear her asking these questions if you weren't right next to her and leaning in to hear the computer that speaks for her and helps her put her thoughts into sentences and questions.

Abigail is disabled and unable to speak, however through the help of a computer, she will look at pictures and words, the computer then registers her eyes focused on these images and puts words to her thoughts. It's amazing technology! One of her questions was, "What about internet connectivity?" She realized that she was unable to bring up a world map on her computer because she was not connected to the internet. When trying to determine where these countries were her thought process was great however she was blocked right at the start. Her parent was there to assist her and was able to access the information on her smart phone. Abigail was very engaged mentally in this assignment despite her physical challenges. I was very impressed with this young girl.

That experience reminded me of the importance of websites being accessible to everyone by being ADA compliant. It also made me appreciate the time (over 40 hours) and money I spent learning how best to make websites accessible to the disabled, and meet ADA Compliance. If you are interested in making your website information available to people just like Abigail let me know.

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The problem with design is that the effect is not always conscious. If the design is slightly off the typical viewer won't spot what is wrong, they will simply "feel" that something is not quite right. That feeling is translated to your organization, not JUST to your website. This effect is a very big problem because it is difficult to recognize & quantify.

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