May 19th is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. At EventBuilder, we consider implementing and making our products available to everyone a core value, not simply a strategic business decision. We've mentioned before how our commitment stems from personal experience, but on this special day, we wanted to share how impactful these basic supports can be.
A Few Disability Facts
- Around 1 billion people worldwide have a disability.
- Globally, approximately 2.2 million people have a vision impairment which may require a screen magnifier for web pages.
- It's estimated that 466 million people worldwide have a hearing disability.
- 26% of adults in the United States have some type of disability.
- Of those, 13.7% have mobility issues; 10.8% have cognitive difficulties impacting concentration, memory, and decision-making; 5.9% have a hearing disability; and 4.6% have vision difficulties.
In 2022, WebAIM conducted a study and found that 96.8% of the world's top one million websites don't offer a fully accessible experience. While that certainly makes a strong business case for embracing accessible experiences, there's a human side to inclusion that makes creating accessible products and services a big step toward building a better world for everyone.
What's at Stake
What so many of us without disabilities can't see is disabled citizens' ongoing struggle for basic civil rights. The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 guarantees people with disabilities have equal opportunity to participate fully in American life. While the ADA doesn't explicitly include digital accessibility, the Department of Justice has stated that websites fall under the umbrella of public services/accommodations. When 96.8% of the world's top 1 million websites aren't providing accessible experiences, they are limiting this participation and are subject to litigation.
Providing access isn't just a matter of avoiding a lawsuit, however. It's the right thing to do. Leaving people with disabilities behind to find workarounds to obtain what they need is a monumental waste of energy, ingenuity, talent, and insight, yes, but for businesses, it's also leaving money on the table. In the United States, people with disabilities and their family, friends, and allies have nearly $500,000,000,000 in disposable income.
Our CTO, Robin Houser and I have had several discussions about our experiences as parents of children with disabilities. Robin's 24-year-old son, Cameron, has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a progressive degenerative muscle disorder. My daughter Kelley, 19 years old, was born with a cranio-facial birth defect called Aural Atresia/Microtia, which means she was born without her right-side outer ear and ear canal, as well as underdeveloped middle ear structures (tympanic membrane and ossicular chain). She is deaf in one ear.
Having a child with a disability opens up a world that, as parents without disabilities, we had no idea existed. The things we take for granted as a matter of course were suddenly held in stark contrast to what we now had to advocate for and teach our children how to navigate.
More often than we liked, places, circumstances, and situations didn't have what was needed for our children to participate fully and more importantly, be truly seen and heard. For example, when Robin's family went to a high school graduation ceremony, Cameron was unable to climb the bleacher stairs. A simple ramp, or a level, cordoned-off area reserved for people with mobility issues would have saved them the frustration and allowed him to enjoy the ceremony fully.
Throughout school, my daughter had hearing support in her classes, such as preferential seating, classroom speakers, microphones for her teachers (called a sound field system), and closed captioning on media. I spent many hours locked in frustration trying to make certain the accommodations were adhered to. Because her hearing impairment was largely "invisible," school staff often had trouble comprehending the important role these supports played in her education.
When We're Pleasantly Surprised
When our kids come into situations with everything they need ready without any hurdles to navigate first, it is deeply meaningful. From ramps and keeping entrances and exits clear, to already-in-place closed captioning and customizable controls, we know immediately when businesses, locations, and events have incorporated accessibility into their design. When they encounter these ready-made accommodations, people with disabilities feel seen and considered. This thoughtful approach opens the door for disabled individuals to offer their gifts, talents, insights, and perspective to the fullest. A fundamental human desire is to be seen, heard, and valued. Providing access for people with disabilities sends the message that they are.
The Curb-Cut Effect
Named for the downslope in sidewalks for wheelchair access, the Curb-Cut Effect refers to the concept "design for one, help many." Curb-cuts may have been designed for wheelchair users, but have also made navigating sidewalks easier for stroller users, people with walkers or crutches, and even small children negotiating street crossing with their caregivers.
Virtually, closed captioning illustrates this effect perfectly as it makes language learning practice, viewing content in a noisy environment, and even learning to read easier. Because we had closed captioning on at home for our daughter, our son learned to read very quickly and was more than ready to start Kindergarten when the time came.
Having It Ready
Taking what we've learned about the barriers our kids faced, Robin leads her development team to implement and continually audit our software, both Organizer and Attendee-facing, for compliance with WCAG 2.1 AA. On the Attendee side, our Registration pages, Listing pages, and Streaming Console are coded for accessibility. Font size, contrast, position, and keyboard navigation are integrated into the Console interface, giving any user control over their experience as it best suits them.
We offer automated and live closed captioning in English, with additional languages available upon request. Our dedicated Services team is here to collaborate and create an accessibility solution for your specific situation to provide access as needed. Our Customer Care group is available 24/5 for in-the-moment assistance.
Optimized For Everyone
We state that a core value at EventBuilder is "Compassion for our customers, each other, and ourselves." We strive to continually shape our products and services with that empathy and compassion in mind and strive to optimize everyone's experience with us. Contact us for a consultation today!