Making online spaces accessible

A laptop screen is open showing participants in an online meeting. Making online meetings accessible.Citizen action has never been more important and much of this is done online and through social media. This is due to the ease of technology, a pandemic and plain economics. Consequently, it’s important to make online spaces accessible for everyone. 

On The Commons Social Change website, Manisha Amin provides some advice form making online spaces accessible. Here are some facts about the Australian population:

      • 18% living with disability
      • 70% of disabilities are invisible
      • 20% have a long term health condition
      • 28% live in regional and remote areas
      • 48% born overseas or have parent born overseas
      • 8% men are colour blind

These figures don’t include people who have a temporary loss of capability, such as a broken leg. 

An inclusive social environment, online or face to face, is created through respect and listening. Being accountable for your own emotions and accepting all experiences are valid are important too.

Online meetings have benefits and drawbacks and not everyone needs the same features. For example, having video on helps people to lip read and see facial expressions. But some people with neurodiverse conditions find video distracting. 

Live captioning is better than auto-generated captioning and provides a transcript later. Captioning is also good for people with limited English language skills or find different accents difficult to understand. 

The article is titled, Digital Accessibility: Making Online Spaces Accessible. There’s more information about preparing for meetings and good advice about learning to be inclusive. Don’t worry about not getting it right first time – it’s a learning journey for everyone.

In addition, meeting facilitators need to be aware of the power dynamics in the room. Who holds the pen? Who has the loudest voice or the most influence?  

Sheri Byrne Haber has also written about Zoom for people with vision loss.

Economics of universal design in ICT

Part of a computer screen showing code. Economics of universal design in ICT.It is often thought that economic arguments will win the day if social justice arguments are ignored. This may be partially true if these arguments are allowed to be heard. “On Assessing the Costs and Benefits of Universal Design of ICT”, is another attempt to show that universal design has cost benefits, particularly if you take the longer view. This research paper on the economics of universal design in ICT is from Norway.

Abstract: In the ICT and IT domains, universal design is typically viewed as a burden and an expense, and its application is often justified only by ethics and/or legislation. Advocates for universal design are arguing that it is cost-effective, but so far there are few studies that document this in a detailed way. In this work, we discuss related research and studies dealing with the costs and benefits of accessible and usable ICT solutions.

In particular, we discuss the findings regarding what is a universally designed solution, what is needed to make such a solution, how much does it cost, what impact can be anticipated by the extra effort, and how it can be measured.

Finally, we suggest an approach for carrying out cost-benefit analyses of developing universally designed solutions. There is a weak indication that the economical benefits of UD solutions are much higher than the initial and running costs.

I think it is problematic to talk “cost-benefit” because politically it seems it has to benefit those who are not excluded. “Cost effectiveness” is a somewhat different measure with a focus on outcomes rather than outputs. Schraner et al have developed a different model using assistive technology as a case study.  Jane Bringolf, Editor.

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