Striving to remove barriers that prevent us from building Vibrant, Diverse, Inclusive, Accessible Communities!

 

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What Message do you Intend to be Sending?

By Mike Thompson, 9 January, 2024

A Public Accessibility Statement is a Key Component in Establishing Just Relationships with People with Disabilities 


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 Adults in the United States have some type of Disability.  The International Accessibility Standards have been in place now for nearly three decades. Yet, consider this revealing statistic: Only 3% of the internet is accessible to People with Disabilities. How effectively does your website and communication prioritize accessibility for People with Disabilities?  Do you follow Inclusive Design constructs when creating content for distribution and publication? Do you have a Public Accessibility Statement?

Accessibility Training is vital in knowing how to use and follow the ever-evolving International Accessibility Standards.  Fortunately, the same people who develop and maintain these standards, along with People with Disabilities offer a free self-paced training course. One of the measurable outcomes of this training is a Public Accessibility Statement which is covered in detail in Module 5.

The development of an accessibility statement serves as a public information page, conveying an organization's policies, accessibility goals, and past accomplishments in serving People with Disabilities. It plays a crucial role in demonstrating a commitment to digital accessibility and should be easily accessible for all website visitors.

A Public Accessibility Statement:

Developing an accessibility statement is considered a best practice and is seen as a moral obligation. This statement not only showcases the organization's awareness but also conveys a strong dedication to digital accessibility. Beyond creating a positive image for the organization, it serves as a tool for accountability. Upholding accessibility standards is inherently the right course of action, and publicly expressing this commitment through an accessibility statement offers an extra incentive to uphold these standards. Simultaneously, it provides People with Disabilities a transparent avenue to report accessibility problems and seek solutions.

By maintaining an inaccessible website, the clear message you are sending to People with Disabilities is that “You are not welcome!” “We didn’t include you!” “We don’t plan for you!” “We don’t think about you!” “You’re not our problem or concern!Our vibrant community is only for an elite few!” “You are not invited”!  "Our Programs and Services are not intended for you!"

For as long as there have been humans on this planet, some of them have been People with Disabilities. Whether born with Disabilities or acquired later in life through acts of violence, accident, disease, or simply aging, People with Disabilities have always been and are still among us today.

An institution’s treatment of People with Disabilities reflects its commitment to inclusivity and equality. Respect, accessibility, and inclusion for People with Disabilities indicate the institution’s values, while discrimination or marginalization may reveal underlying biases and a lack of awareness. In essence, the treatment of People with Disabilities serves as a crucial indicator of an institution’s dedication to human rights and social justice.

One way or another, you are sending a public message.  What will that message be?

Essential Components of an Accessibility Statement:

To ensure that an accessibility statement effectively communicates an organization's accessibility practices, several key components should be included:

  1. Statement of Commitment:

    • Clearly express your intentions, dedication, and efforts toward digital accessibility.
    • Utilize plain language to enhance accessibility and understanding.
  2. Form of Contact:

    • Provide multiple valid and up-to-date contact methods which are all Accessible for People with Disabilities to report problems and seek solutions.  Make sure that these communication methods are not walled off and that all personnel involved in responding to Problems and questions are well trained in the International Accessibility Standards as well as Anti-Ableism Training.
    • Implement a system for tracking and prioritizing accessibility problems, emphasizing a commitment to responsiveness.  
    • Publish all advancements while addressing reported Accessibility problems, along with any temporary solutions in place during the ongoing development of a permanent Accessibility remedy. Include how do you plan to uphold an equitable environment in the interim?
  3. Standards Used:

    • Clearly define the accessibility standards followed, with a focus on referencing globally recognized guidelines like which version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) AA or above and Inclusive Design practices where the focus is on removing as many barriers as possible rather than catering to as many users as possible.
    • Develop policies and procedures by employing People with Disabilities to be actively involved in their content and creation.
    • Make policies and guidelines public for transparency, aligning with ethical principles.
  4. Environments Tested for Compatibility:

    • Acknowledge the diverse devices and applications users employ to access content. Do not design content for an elite few which requires downloading specialized software or applications. Use Inclusive Design instead.
    • Thoroughly and regularly test for compatibility by employing People of various Disabilities in common environments to confirm functionality, emphasizing Accessibility, ethical, and Inclusive Design considerations.
  5. Date Updated:

    • Consistently review and update your accessibility statement to ensure precision. Given the dynamic nature of International Accessibility Standards, maintaining accuracy is vital for those committed to removing barriers. If your statement contains outdated or inaccurate information about accessibility, it not only compromises your organization's credibility but also acts as an obstacle, impeding progress toward establishing a truly inclusive and accessible digital environment. Your dedication to an accessible and inclusive experience holds significant importance, and by keeping your information up-to-date, you actively contribute to the ongoing initiative of removing barriers and fostering an environment where People with Disabilities can engage seamlessly and inclusively.
    • Include the date of the last revision, providing users with information on the statement's currency and emphasizing transparency.
  6. Living Document:

    • Be sure to keep your public Accessibility Statement updated with all of your latest Accessible contact information and methods.
    • Make sure that your statement reflects the latest Accessibility Standards and Technology.
    • Be certain that you continue to follow the current Best Practices for Inclusive Design.
    • Review your reported Accessibility problems and learn from them and make cultural changes based on what you learned. Update your statement based on these cultural change observations. This shows growth and progress towards Accessibility and Inclusion for People with Disabilities!

Conclusion:

Recognizing the paramount importance of Accessibility Training in aligning with evolving standards, the resulting public Accessibility Statement becomes a pivotal tool for organizations. This statement, a beacon of moral responsibility, not only showcases organizational awareness but also emphasizes a robust dedication to digital accessibility. It serves as both a positive image-builder and a mechanism for accountability. Upholding accessibility standards is an intrinsic duty, and public expression through the accessibility statement adds an extra incentive. Simultaneously, it provides People with Disabilities a transparent channel to report problems, ensuring inclusivity. The treatment of People with Disabilities reflects an institution's commitment to equality, making respect, accessibility, and inclusivity crucial indicators of its values. The essential components of an Accessibility Statement, from clear commitments to regular updates, underscore the ongoing initiative to remove barriers and foster an environment where People with Disabilities can engage seamlessly and inclusively.

Now that decades have passed since the enactment of Civil and Human Rights legislation in the United States and countries around the world, along with the 2008 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, it is well overdue to take decisive action and put an end to the systemic ableism still occurring within the Administrative Order of Baha’u’llah.

Individuals in positions of service within our Institutions and their affiliated entities, responsible for creating content, must take decisive steps to eradicate Systemic Ableism. It is imperative that they refrain from engaging in Discrimination, Exclusion, and Oppression against People with Disabilities during the creation and dissemination of inaccessible content. Others should not passively and complacently contribute to this issue by consuming such inaccessible content, thereby perpetuating the exclusion, discrimination, and oppression faced by People with Disabilities, without actively working to remove these barriers that prevent us from building Diverse, Vibrant, Inclusive, Accessible Communities!

People with Disabilities should have Access to the Baha’i Faith and the Baha’i Teachings and the Baha'i Programs and Services and Materials and Events and the Baha’i Videos and Baha’i Communications and the Baha’i Web Sites and the Baha’i Software and all that the Baha’i Institutions and offices and Communities and Individuals are so busy working to create!

Injustice, Exclusion, Discrimination and Oppression are not Baha’i Teachings or any part of the Baha’i Faith!  We know from the many stories of Abdul-Baha's travels and engagements, that his attention, care, and focus, was on Unity and Justice, and always on Inclusion of those who were considered to be historically marginalized populations, including those with disabilities. “If any discrimination is at all to be tolerated”, Shoghi Effendi has stated, “it should be a discrimination not against, but rather in favour of the minority, be it racial or otherwise.” - Universal House of Justice letter, 27 December, 2017

"Unity in sameness at the Exclusion of the Oppressed results in elite separatism!  However, we are challenged with something ever so much more profound -- Unity in Diversity!

Accessibility is about Inclusion!
Accessibility is about Inclusion!
Accessibility is about Inclusion!

Accessibility is about Justice!
Accessibility is about Equity!
Accessibility is about Unity in Diversity!

Accessibility is about Striving to remove barriers that prevent us from building Diverse, Vibrant, Inclusive, Accessible Communities!

Accessibility is about Action!

Accessibility involves Everyone!

Now review all of your communications, policies, programs and services.  What message are you sending?  What message do you intend to send?  What will you do to remove barriers that prevent us from building Diverse, Vibrant, Inclusive, Accessible Communities and Include People with Disabilities?

 

Striving to remove barriers that prevent us from building a Diverse, Vibrant, Inclusive, Accessible Community!

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