Illustration of man sitting crosslegged, with arms outstretched holding a heart in one hand and an accessibility symbol in the other.

The 10 affirmations of good digital accessibility

As we celebrate the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (signed into law on July 26, 1990), as well as Disability Pride Month, consider the following 10 activities and behaviors you can embrace to promote digital equality and inclusion year-round. 

1. I understand that accessible content is quality content and I can take the first step towards this goal by installing a free automated testing tool

A major component of developing accessible digital experiences is by creating good quality code. Code that is not accessible is not just poor-quality code, but it can exclude up to 1 in 4 people from using your content. Do you want to be the designer, developer, or tester of digital content that is not considered to be good quality? It’s easy to create accessible code with automated accessibility tools in your integrated development environment (IDE) by using linting tools like axe Linter, which will alert you to corrections as you write code. 

Once code is created, automated testing tools can catch up to 57% of the problems you may have in your code– so usage of the free axe DevTools extension for popular browsers is highly recommended. Quality code is accessible to all, is secure, and performs well.

2. I understand that automated testing tools can go only so far in producing accessible content and that manual testing is still required for a good user experience

Automated testing tools with guided manual testing capabilities, such as axe DevTools Pro, can take your testing coverage further than automation alone– up to 80%– which is great when you’re scaling accessibility efforts.

However, full testing coverage can easily be achieved with manual testing and is easy to learn and manage with tools such as axe Auditor. Axe Auditor can help you determine the remaining manual tests required, show you how to perform them, and document the results– all without needing to be an accessibility expert.

3. I agree accessibility is a human right as proclaimed by the United Nations

In today’s ever-changing, technologically-driven environment, no one should be excluded from experiencing the digital solutions that allow us to live life to its fullest. That’s why global access to digital content, whether it be a web page, PDF or mobile app, has to have the ability to be accessed by all–including those with disabilities.

We’re witnessing a greater trend in public perception that is moving from digital accessibility being a “nice-to-have” towards an unequivocal right. In fact, in a recent survey of 560 U.S. consumers, 65% of respondents believe digital accessibility is a civil right and not just a privilege. 75% of respondents ages 18-24 agreed with the statement, suggesting that younger generations are championing this viewpoint and making it more of a priority in their consumer habits.

4. Disability and digital accessibility awareness are the cornerstones of inclusion

To provide accessible digital content, one needs to first understand the “why”– the underlying understanding of the meaning and impact of creating an equal and accessible experience. Fostering awareness helps connect the dots for individuals to then make a true commitment to digital equality. Tools like Deque University not only help solve the problem of “why,” but they also help with the “how” piece of the puzzle by enabling everyone from designers to developers and testers to take actionable steps towards meaningful change. 

Immersive learning experiences like Accessibility Labs, training, as well as free conferences like axe-con also go a long way in providing awareness and training on the skills for testing and remediating digital accessibility problems.

5. I agree to use the Microsoft accessibility checker before sending an Office document

While accessible web pages, PDFs, and mobile apps play a large part in digital inclusion, simple office documents like e-mail, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint slide decks also need to be created and delivered in an inclusive and accessible format. This is now easy to do by engaging the Microsoft Accessibility Checker built right into your favorite Office tool. Follow the prompts and review the suggestions to make your content more accessible.

6. I agree that accessibility improves everyone’s lives either now or in the future

Digital accessibility is no longer a specialized skill only a few obtain. Disabled people are the largest minority any of us can join at any point in our lives. It’s for that reason everyone needs to count on good digital accessibility as an insurance policy if and when you may be faced with a need. While ¼ of people have a disability globally, that rate increases to 2 in 5 adults 65 years or older.

This great need, at the global level, has elevated the work of technology professionals who specialize in the discipline as a recognized profession through the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP). Consider obtaining your own credentials through the IAAP, such as the Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) or Web Accessibility Specialist (WAS) certifications. You can begin your learning journey through self-paced courses on Deque University.

7. I understand assistive technology improves everyone’s productivity when consuming accessible digital content

If you have ever watched a movie with captions on, listened to an audiobook, or increased the font on your computer, you have benefited from assistive technology. Originally designed for the disabled and appreciated by all, assistive technology is already available to you on your PC/Mac or mobile device in the form of screen readers, magnification tools and keyboard shortcuts. Check out your computer or smartphone’s accessibility settings to discover the helpful tools that can enable better, more inclusive experiences for every user.

8. I know that assistive technology, when used with content meeting accessibility standards, can help people with invisible disabilities

While it is easy for someone to understand how digital accessibility helps a person who is blind to read a computer using a screen reader, there are many people who live with disabilities that are invisible, such as individuals with chronic pain disorders, ADHD, or colorblindness. This group of people can’t be forgotten or overlooked when developing accessible experiences.

Moreover, there is an increased interest and expertise needed for digital accessibility for cognitive disabilities, which are often invisible. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many suffering from the effects of Long Covid, more people may be in need of cognitive accessibility solutions today and in the foreseeable future. 

9. I agree that Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) isn’t DEI without including the disabled

Diversity, equity, and inclusion professionals need to understand that DEI without disability isn’t fully inclusive. Help spread the word and don’t let the disabled be left out of the DEI conversation by learning from and participating in the work of Disability:In.

In the workplace, consider strategies for creating an accessible hiring and recruiting experience such as making sure your applications are accessible, that you’re empowered to make employee accommodations, and are hosting interviews with accessibility best practices.

10. I understand digital equality is a global issue impacting 1 billion people

Digital accessibility and inclusion of the disabled is not a minor topic. Disability affects 15% of the world’s population, which means that digital accessibility requires everyone to do their part to help close the digital divide. That is also why the standards for good digital accessibility are at the international level as promoted by the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C WAI).

While the web has the potential to be a great equalizer, we must ensure that people with disabilities are not left out of the equation. Digital equality begins with building good digital accessible experiences for all.

Turn affirmations into actions

1 in 4 people is disabled. This Disability Pride Month, and in commemoration of the ADA’s 32nd anniversary, take into consideration these 10 affirmations for developing good, accessible digital experiences. Embrace the practices described here to make a wide-reaching impact on the equality of the internet. Finally, reach out to someone who is disabled today, and your life will be enriched.

Photo of Patrick Sturdivant

About Patrick Sturdivant

Patrick Sturdivant is Vice President and Principal Strategy Consultant at Deque Systems. Patrick has worked in information technology for over 30 years. An experienced software engineer who is blind, Patrick deeply understands the technical challenges our customers and the disabled community face when it comes to accessibility. Coupled with his testing, team building, training and DE&I strengths, Patrick is a consulting force to be reckoned with. For the last eleven years, Patrick has been dedicated to promoting digital inclusion for all through awareness and the benefits digital equality brings to all users by sharing his own personal story of leading a digital lifestyle using multiple screen readers on both desktop and tablet platforms. Patrick’s accomplishments include accessibility lab and disability employee resource group establishment experience, US Patent holder for several bank products designed for the blind and his ability to influence at all levels of an organization’s business and technical teams.