WASHINGTON, May 18, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — On the 12th anniversary of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) urges the United States government to close the digital inclusion gap for Americans with disabilities and act immediately to fulfill the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the digital age.
In April 2023, AFB released a new report examining barriers to digital inclusion. The study uncovered concerning data on the prevalent barriers that consumers who are blind run into when trying to complete basic tasks online. The study found that 21% of web and 28% of mobile app users who were blind, deafblind, or had low vision experienced daily obstacles online. To compound the issue, over 80% of web and mobile app users had issues with completing everyday tasks like ordering food, online shopping, online dating, college coursework, monitoring a child’s education, or booking bus, train, and air travel. Similar frustrations also surfaced with searching and applying for work.
Frustrations around accessibility vary – from images of text that are not described to online forms that are completely unusable for people who rely on assistive technology to use the internet. Participants reported a variety of consequences from these barriers that had downstream effects on their own time and resources as well as on the businesses whose services they were using. In fact, 44% of web and 41% of mobile app users said digital access barriers forced them to take their business elsewhere. Others simply had to go without as noted by the 65% who reported being unable to complete tasks when they encounter barriers.
“Global Accessibility Awareness Day is both a day to learn about accessibility and to take action for greater digital inclusion,” said Stephanie Enyart, AFB Chief Public Policy & Research Officer. “At AFB, we are calling on individual businesses, Congress, and the US Department of Justice to take this opportunity to move forward. Our lives since the pandemic have been transformed thanks to the internet, but the rate at which it has grown without regulatory clarity has also created problems for businesses and customers. Now is the time to ensure that people with disabilities can access the internet as easily and independently as people without disabilities.”
The widespread nature of this problem requires systemic solutions. Both the Federal Government and Congress must take measures to expand the existing regulations under the ADA from the physical to the virtual environment. AFB has joined 52 national disability rights organizations in a statement today, calling for regulations clarifying how the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to state and local government websites and apps as well as those used by private businesses that are open to the public. At the same time, Congress must move to reintroduce the Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act, which was introduced during the final months of the last Congress.
We celebrate the many corporations and individuals who are working with us to amplify calls for greater digital inclusion. A joint article by Newt Gingrich, former Republican Speaker of the House, and Tony Coelho, former Democratic Member of Congress and author of the ADA, highlights the common ground that exists for creating a more inclusive digital society. We echo their calls for bipartisan Congressional hearings that highlight the challenges that people with disabilities face in an inaccessible digital world.
Smart digital design makes products and services accessible for all. It creates greater opportunity, assures greater privacy, removes frustrations, and even raises the bottom line for businesses. It also assures the promise of the ADA will continue to adapt and remain strong for future generations of Americans with disabilities.
AFB calls for individuals, the business community, and government to come together to support a comprehensive plan that will expand digital inclusion for all people with disabilities.
Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or have low vision. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. In addition to publishing the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, the essential professional resource for information about visual impairment in the field, AFB is also the proud steward of the accessible Helen Keller Archive, honoring the legacy of our most famous ambassador. To learn more, visit www.afb.org.
Contact: Tony Stephens, firstname.lastname@example.org/212.502.7627
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SOURCE American Foundation for the Blind