Call Me Anything You Want but Let’s Get Digital Accessibility Done Now

By Albert J. Rizzi, M.Ed.


Every few months I read a blog or social media post about whether we should refer to members of the disability community as “disabled” or “a person with a disability”. I even wrote about that very subject in a piece titled “The ‘Dis’ labeling Words We Use “ last year. It is just like Italians arguing over if the red stuff on their pasta should be referred to as sauce or gravy or the argument whether Ginger vs. Mary Ann was hotter on Gilligan’s Island. At times, it’s an interesting conversation to have and allows us to think about ourselves and the people that we interact with. For the record, I preferred the Professor.

But seriously, it’s 2020. We need to have digital accessibility done now.

Why? COVID-19 websites are not accessible to people who happen to be blind or have severe visual impairment. This means that life-saving information with safety tips, tracking maps, and other vital resources that all Americans are using to keep themselves and the people they love safe during this once in a century pandemic is being kept from us. At the time this is being written, there are only two state websites that come close to being fully accessible. Thank you, New Mexico, and Minnesota!

But seriously, it’s 2020. We need to have digital accessibility done now.

Why? During this pandemic, businesses, non-profits, and governments alike are letting their employees telecommute to keep operations afloat. At the same time, they removed their hackneyed argument that hiring someone with a disability who needs a work-at-home accommodation is not doable. As events during the pandemic proved, it is entirely doable. As a community, we need to advocate and make everyone aware that we are ready, willing, and able to work from home even after everyone else wants to rush back to the office because they are sick of the novelty of having their kids and partners around 24/7.

I am not kidding. Seriously, it’s 2020. We need to have digital accessibility done now.

Why? The most important election in our recent memory is just a few months away. Regardless of politics, I don’t think I have met anyone who simply does not care who will be elected to lead our great nation. That goes from the local dog catcher to the president. Access to usable and functional polling sites has always been problematic during the best of times whether you have a disability or not. But far too many Americans, as well as political hopefuls, forget that people who happen to have a disability are entitled to vote privately and independently, just like everyone else. In the era of COVID-19, nearly all state and local governments seem to have forgotten that. Thankfully, Lady Justice and her slew of minions in black robes have focused on a vision of true inclusion and digital equity when it comes to the power of the disability vote.

As we decide who we will vote for, many politicians’ websites are not accessible to people who have a disability. These websites provide their stances on the issues, information on how to volunteer, and even places where we can donate money, yet we can’t even access or read these digital platforms due to an utter lack of coding and consideration that is mandated by federal law and regulations!

That’s why we need to get digital accessibility done now!

Don’t get me wrong. How each of us prefers to be identified is an important conversation to have. When the public chooses to ‘dis’ label people, regardless of Ability, that is a problem. It marginalizes even the most stout-hearted individuals. Being ‘dis’ labeled or marginalized only serves to compromise our ability to rise to greatness and feel like valued participants within our nation and global communities. I know this to be true because I live it each and every day as do tens of millions of my fellow Americans who just happen to have a disability.

However, sometimes we spend so much time, dare I say too much time on these sorts of things that we forget the big picture. In 2020, digital accessibility should be moved to the very top of our lists. It’s not an exaggeration to say that without it we are literally putting our lives at risk.

So, for now, just call me Albert, and please allow me to cast my vote to make sure America becomes America again. We will figure the other stuff out later.

But seriously, I may be blind but it’s 2020! We need to have authentic inclusion and digital equity done now.