Accessability for the Disabled – What That Means to Technologists

universal handicapped symbolMy particular area of geekdom involves finding alternatives and accessible solutions for technology issues for disabled students and college staff members. Throughout the country, geeks like me working in colleges/universities and corporations struggle in making basic and advanced technologies available to disabled students and staff. Up to five percent of the population of the United States’ workforce is disabled, and up to thirty percent of students are classified as such. Statistics indicate that as more wounded soldiers return from overseas and our country’s population grows, our disabled population will only increase, and that naturally means more disabled persons in the workplace. And of the workplaces in America, more than 60% do their day-to-day business using technology, i.e., computers.

What does that mean to people like us, who are the backbones of our company’s IT organization? It means we may be called on to provide adaptive technology or solutions that are outside of what we know. If you aren’t disabled yourself, you may not understand the needs of a disabled person just trying to do their job. But all organizations, regardless of funding or makeup, are required by law to provide accessible options for all workers.

Some of us may never encounter a disabled person in the workplace that needs our help. But most of us will, and we should be prepared for that time when it comes. And we do that by making an effort to understand disabilities, and learn about accessible solutions, whatever they might be. Over the next few weeks I will be posting several articles with disability services in mind. Hopefully these articles are helpful and timely.

In the meantime, you might want to check out the government’s ADA website, to get a handle for what is required and expected of employers. My future posts will concentrate on specific adaptive technology that you may encounter in your workplace. I will also discuss adaptive changes you can make to existing software and hardware as quick ways to add adaptability for user needs. There is no such thing as “Universal Design” when it comes to adaptive technology, but there are some standards that can be followed, and I will cover those, as well.

Please feel free to leave a comment asking for me to cover a specific item or topic, and I will be happy to accommodate that.