The spirit and intention behind disability laws in the United States is for the full inclusion of people with disabilities in American society. Inclusivity is achieved through proactive accessibility efforts and accommodations for individuals with disabilities.
Inclusivity ensures equal access and opportunity for participation through full and equal enjoyment and effective communication for the disabled community within:
- Academic Courses & Programs
- Services & Activities
- Facilities/Physical Accessibility
- Websites/Online Content
It is a general term used to describe the level of availability and usability by intended users of products, devices, services, or environments. Accessibility efforts are intended to remove barriers for persons with disabilities.
Accessibility ensures that people with disabilities are afforded the opportunity to:
- acquire the same information
- engage in the same interactions
- enjoy the same services as those without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use
Architectural/ Physical Barriers: barriers within the built environment.
Example: Buildings which lack elevators or accessible entries.
Attitudinal Barriers: perceptions, assumptions, stereotypes, and behaviors which result in bias or discrimination to persons with disabilities.
Example: Assuming being disabled is inferior. Considering accommodations a special favor.
Informational/Communication Barriers: inaccessible information/communication delivery which prevent those who are hard of hearing/Deaf, low vision/Blind or with learning disabilities from accessing the information.
Example: Videos which do not include accurate closed captioning or transcriptions. Inaccessible electronic documents, websites, or forms which cannot be read by a screen reader
Organizational/Systemic Barriers: policies, procedures, or practices which systematically exclude individuals with disabilities and which may result in discrimination.
Example: Program requirements not connected to essential outcomes or requirements. Policies which do not ensure equal participation for persons with disabilities.
Technological: inaccessible devices or technological platforms which cannot be used with an assistive device.
Example: Inability for a person with a disability to play a computer game due to inaccessible technology.
Disability Identity & Language
Language is an integral part of how we shape our thinking and has implications for how we think about disability
There are two prevalent ways that people identify with disability in language: person-first and identity-first.
- Person First Language: the emphasis is on the person and distances the person from the disability; the person comes first, disability second.
Example: She is a woman with autism.
- Identity First Language: the emphasis is that the disability is central to identify and one is unable to separate from the person.
Example: She is an autistic woman
It’s important to ask people with disabilities how they would like to be described.
- Language which perpetuates misconceptions about disability
- Outmoded euphemisms “special needs” or “differently abled” etc. which emphasize ableism as superior
- Broad generalizations when describing individuals
- The term “handicap” for a disability or “handicapped” for a person.
- Words that suggest pity, such as “affiliated with,”“battling”or “suffers from” any disability or illness.