Starting the conversation on the ADA and web accessibility

July 30, 2010 by JoLynne Lyon

photo of broken computer keys

WebAIM has long advocated for improved Web accessibility.

The people at WebAIM have long advocated for better web accessibility, so executive director Cyndi Rowland wrote a happy blog earlier this week on their website after learning that the Department of Justice is investigating  applying the Americans with Disabilities Act to the Internet (WebAIM is an initiative of the CPD).

“In short, the Department is seeking comments on their desire to revise regulation to ‘…establish specific requirements for State and local governments and public accommodations to make their websites accessible to individuals with disabilities,”” she wrote. “The Department is seeking specific comment on many things including the standards they should adopt, and if there should be any exemptions for certain entities (e.g., small business) before they publish their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. This is amazing news! The impact that this will have for individuals with disabilities cannot be expressed.”

The blog was cited by Slashdot, a technical news website. The Chronicle of Higher Education also blogged on the development and quoted WebAIM’s Jonathan Whiting. Education Week’s Digital Eucation blog has also looked at the topic.

These blogs, in turn, started more discussion on web accessability. It wasn’t all happy, particularly on the slashdot site.

“If they don’t cater to a particular audience, that audience doesn’t have to visit the site,” said one commernter. “Not that this is specific to this aspect of the ADA; the same applies to brick-and-mortar stores as well. What gives anyone the right to use legal force against a business owner who doesn’t configure his property so that it caters to particular people?”

Another said, “This is about every citizen having equal access to government, for example.”

And it goes on for at least 290 comments.

Some of the responses surprised WebAIM Executive Director Cyndi Rowland. “It is important for those of us who are disability advocates to hear how others process disability-rights information.  This  experience made me think that I am more insular than I would want to believe,” she said. “I did not know that some of these opinions still existed. With that said, we need to move forward with an understanding that they do.”

WebAIM Associate Director Jared Smith addressed the topic and what it means for websites and web designers today on the WebAIM blog. In his post, he both refutes the notion that ADA requirements will send web pages back to the 1990s and agrees that implementation will be tricky.

” The ADA and its implementation is far from perfect, but I believe that we live in a world where people with disabilities should have opportunities to engage in commerce and online activities uninhibited by discrimination,” he wrote. “This has generally not occurred to date.”

Here’s to some good discussion.

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July newsletter available.

July 29, 2010 by JoLynne Lyon

Mark Innocenti

Mark Innocenti is the new Research and Evaluation Division Director. He’s featured in the latest CPD NewsFlash.

Also highlighted: the Early Childhood Alternative Teacher Preparation program, which brings university coursework to students in rural Utah who would have a hard time bringing themselves to campus for a two-year training program. It helps ensure that preschoolers in rural Utah have access to trained special education teachers. You can read  more in July’s edition of the CPD Newsflash.

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Acknowledging those who have excelled

July 27, 2010 by cpehrson

Nominations are now open for the Council on Exceptional Children’s (CEC) 2011 annual awards acknowledging the accomplishments of children and youth with disabilities, and special educators, researchers and businesses.

The CEC’s  “Yes I Can!”Awards were established to honor children and youth with disabilities who have excelled. Thousands of children and youth have been recognized since the program’s inception in 1982.

Each year, CEC selects approximately 27 winners for their outstanding achievements in one of the following nine categories:
•    Academics
•    Arts
•    Athletics
•    Community Service
•    Employment
•    Extracurricular Activities
•    Independent Living Skills
•    Self-Advocacy
•    Technology

Nominations packets, eligibility guidelines, and more information can be found on the CEC website. Nominations must be postmarked by October 22, 2010.

The CEC’s Professional Awards recognize outstanding special educators in the following areas: Wallin Lifetime Achievement, Clarissa Hug Teacher of the Year, Special Education Research, Outstanding CEC Leadership and Business Awards.

More information about these professional awards and nomination forms can be found on the CEC website.  All nominations are due by October 22, 2010.

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Celebrating the ADA: Happy 20th Birthday, ADA!

July 26, 2010 by cpehrson

Today is a great day of celebration for persons with disabilities, their families and advocates.  It is a time to join with others in proclaiming a recommitment to the vision and spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act–full inclusion of people with disabilities into American life!

The Center for Persons with Disabilities has joined the “2010 by 2010 Campaign,” sponsored by the National ADA Symposium in recognition of the passage of this landmark civil rights legislation, by signing the “Proclamation of Recommitment” to the spirit of the ADA.

A version of the Proclamation follows:

Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

A Proclamation of Recommitment to Full Implementation of the ADA

On July 26, 1990, President George H. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure the civil rights of people with disabilities. This legislation established a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

The ADA has expanded opportunities for Americans with disabilities by reducing barriers and changing perceptions, increasing full participation in community life. However, the full promise of the ADA will only be reached if public entities remain committed in their efforts to fully implement the ADA.

On the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we (_name of public entity_) celebrate and recognize the progress that has been made by reaffirming the principals of equality and inclusion and recommitting our efforts to reach full ADA compliance.

NOW THEREFORE, the ______________ (County Board of Commissioners/City Council/Mayor/President) do hereby reaffirm our commitment to work toward full ADA compliance in _________________(name of public entity). 

The CPD is proud to be one of the 2010 and will continue to work toward full ADA compliance. You and your organization can also sign this recommitment to the ADA and become one of the 2010 this year.

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Celebrating the ADA: Benefitting individuals close to home

July 20, 2010 by cpehrson

The ADA has had a significant impact on millions of people with disabilities.  Two of our CPD employees have shared some thoughts on the 20th Anniversary of the ADA:

 

From Mary Ellen Heiner:  

One of the biggest things that ADA has done for me is that it has made my leisure time more pleasurable. I can go to stores and actually go down the aisles without knocking over items or running over clothing. I can go to movies and sporting events and know that there will be seating available for my wheelchair. Even more important, I can get my wheelchair in MOST restrooms—although there is still a lot of work to be done in that area. Places that used to have access to upper and lower-level floors via an escalator only now have elevators.

It has also made those who have to make the businesses compliant more aware and tolerant of those of us who have a disability—things they never thought were problems before. I’ve even had some business ask me to take my wheelchair into their stores/restaurants and tell them where things could be improved to make it more accessible.

From Gordon Richins:

I acquired a mobility disability 23 years ago in 1987 before there was an ADA. The ADA was signed in July 1990 and has had a great impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities.  Personally I have benefited greatly from the ADA and continue to as more of the environment I function in becomes accessible.

In 1987 I had a choice between two different power wheelchairs provided by a vendor while I was in rehab following my accident.  Today 20 years after the ADA was signed the choices on the market continues to grow and provides individuals with disabilities more choices on the type and quality of equipment we purchase and use.  The ADA brought a stronger market for private businesses to tap into and profit from as they provide higher-quality accessible equipment and environments.

I see and benefit from this every day,  as I use safe dependable accessible forms of transportation, including my personal van, taxicabs, buses, trains, boats and airplanes.  Newer buildings are more accessible and safer benefiting everyone.  Sidewalks and curb cuts provide safe accessibility for wheelchairs, scooters, baby strollers, shopping carts etc. which everyone benefits from and enjoys using.

The ADA provides much more than physical accessibility. The five ADA title’s listed below address accessibility benefiting everyone.

1)     Employment (employers with 15 or more employees) 
2)     Public Services (state and local government including public school districts and public   transportation)
3)     Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities
4)     Telecommunications
5)     Miscellaneous Provisions

This civil rights law assures the equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.  Enactment of the ADA reflects deeply held American ideals that value the contributions that individuals can make when given the opportunity.