Blog Posts

Digital Equity & Accessibility for People with Disabilities

By Melissa Helquist | June 2019
Director, SLCC Community Writing Center

A patron accessing assistive technology at the Salt Lake Community College Community Writing Center.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities defines accessibility of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as a basic human right. The link between ICTs and human rights is no surprise to anyone working on digital inclusion, but specific efforts are needed to ensure that people with disabilities have equitable access. Between 12-20% of Americans have a disability. People with disabilities are less likely to own a computer, less likely to go online, and earn less than their counterparts without a disability. (More information about technology use amongst Americans with disabilities can be found in a recent study by the Pew Research Center).

Ensuring digital equity for people with disabilities is a complex problem, but any organization can take basic steps to include people with disabilities in their digital inclusion efforts. At the SLCC Community Writing Center (CWC), we have been working to ensure that our services are accessible to people with disabilities. Our efforts include adapting our physical space, purchasing assistive technologies, and creating content that is available to assistive technology users.

We have adapted our physical space by purchasing an adjustable height desk that can be easily raised or lowered to accommodate a range of mobility devices. We have a dedicated accessibility computer that includes assistive technologies such as screen readers and dictation programs. In our social media, we are working to provide image descriptions for all visual content. We are also adapting our print publications to accessible digital formats (http://www.slcc.edu/cwc/publications.aspx).

Accessibility is an ongoing effort, so the steps we’ve made at the CWC are certainly not comprehensive, but hopefully they will give you some ideas for getting started on your own accessibility program. There are many national and local resources that can help you to learn more about accessibility. I’d also be more than happy to chat with you (Melissa.helquist@slcc.edu or 801-957-2192) about ideas, resources, questions, etc.

  • Utah Assistive Technology Program provides assistive technology demos, loans, etc. to support people with disabilities.
  • WebAIM: WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind) is nationally-renowned digital accessibility organization that just happens to be located in Logan, UT. They have extensive resources and tutorials for understanding and implementing web accessibility.
  • Accessibility Inclusive Design and Digital Accessibility Meet-up: This newly formed meet-up is a great place to connect with accessibility professionals.
  • Additional web accessibility guidance can be found from Do-It, Penn State, and the WC3.