Accessibility Isn't Optional

Woman with long dark hair holding her head seemingly in frustration over a silver laptop computer on a white desk.

I haven’t posted in a few days - not even about my #100DaysOfCode. I also haven’t written as much as I typically do - at least technical and web content writing. Instead, I’ve spent that time using my writing skills and energy on disability advocating and educating.

Why? Because ableism and disablism are still very much a thing. 

My eight hours of advocacy and educating others included a website specifically designed to report AODA issues (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) repeatedly throwing an error written in Javascript code with no actual instructions to users on what the error is, how to fix it, or how to avoid it in the first place.

Getting to a solution took an hour and a half and included:

  • Over five attempts in two browsers,
  • attempting to email in the request to the provided email. Only to receive an auto reply saying AODA service requests are no longer accepted via email.
  • a 35 minute call to a wonderful Toronto 311 agent,
  • both of us brainstorming over removing any punctuation except “.”, The end result was the agent giving me direct emails to two senior facility staff, and my cc’g that to my City counsellor.

I wasn’t using any common accessibility tools either. No screen reader, no JAWS, no text-to-speech, no large print. I’m a former adaptive technology specialist, a technical and web content writer, and a new web developer. I also grew up learning to think out of the box because my mom is visually impaired. Still, I had issues using the AODA reporting system. What about those that don’t have the energy, or tools, skills, or experience? What about someone who prefers typing and using web forms over speaking on a phone to eventually get senior facility staff emails?

Also, the entire process should have been unnecessary.

  • Why didn’t the multiple times I’ve informed staff in person at this facility since June of the physical accessibility issues result in them being able to create a “ticket” to resolve the issues?
  • Why do people with disabilities, their families, and disability advocates have to spend our time and spoons using systems with poor UX to get basic access?
  • Why is disability still the last part of DEI - diversity, equity, and inclusion - especially when 20-25% of the population have a disability?

You’ll notice that I’ve only discussed 1.5 hours of the 8 hours I’ve spent dealing with advocacy, ableism, and disablism. At least 5.5 hours are missing. That’s partially because it’s not tech related and I’m publishing this on, and also because there’s no resolution yet. (Though it’s looking like Kevin Bacon will be part of the resolution - just not that Kevin Bacon.)

I’m generally a positive person, have a wacky sense of humour, and can find something good in icky situations. (Well, as long as I’m not having a desk thrown at me - because that happened when I was teaching.) In the very least, I do my best to turn a negative situation into something positive. This post, including sharing YouTube videos of three wonderful disability creators and advocates, is my way of doing that. I hope at least one person finds them helpful and learns something.

Now, I’m going back to coding my current Scrimba Frontend Developer program project, and to enjoying the irony of the timing. It’s a Twitter clone.


Jessica Kellgren-Fozard: Ableism vs. Disablism

Jessica @ How to ADHD: My Channel was a Bit Ableist When I Started

Molly Burke: I don’t look blind, or do I? A blind girl rant

Bonus: Using The Sims to Explain The Spoon Theory. What Is A Spoonie? // The Spoon Theory Skip to around 4:15min if you just want to Sims part Jessica Kellgren-Fozard


Cover Image Credit: Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

Orginally Published