Disabilities Definitions

Visual Disabilities

Many individuals who are blind interact with computers using screen-reader software. Individuals who are blind cannot browse content the way sighted individuals do (by visually scanning and finding the relevant information). For them, content is experienced linearly, by tabbing through categories of information, such as, menus, links and headings.

Individuals who have low-vision, who are colorblind or who have photosensitivity issues also can be affected by inaccessible content. The use of colorblind-friendly colors, high contrast, audio, and logical, consistent layout will provide meaningful experiences for the sight impaired.

Technology Accessibility

The smart phone is often a person's only available access to digital media. Over 50% of web page views worldwide occur on mobile devices. Websites, documents and digital media in general, must be compatible with smart phones and slow 3g connections to be fully accessible. Situations where mobile devices are the only option include:

  • Low income people whose only digital device is a smart phone.
  • People that are traveling short and long distances.
  • People that are in situations where a laptop or desktop computer is not an option (like an impromptu meeting or public venue).

An article in Education Week magazine called "The Digital Divide and Educational Equity" outlined access for students.

September 25, 2018

The lack of access to technology and internet connectivity at home is especially severe among poor, rural, and minority students, according to a new survey from ACT's nonprofit Center for Equity in Learning.

Based on a random sample of 7,000 students who took the ACT in 2017, the survey finds 14 percent of students have access to only one device at home, and 85 percent of those students are classified as "underserved"—defined in the report as economically disadvantaged, first-generation college students or people of color. By contrast, only 5 percent of students whose families make at least $100,000 a year and 7 percent of those whose parents have college degrees reported having a single device.

The report also finds more than half of students with only one device at home said it was a smartphone.

By Lauraine Genota

Vol. 38, Issue 06, Page 4

Published in Print: September 26, 2018, as Education Technology and on the web

Mobility Disabilities

Keyboard access is the most important concept when thinking about the accessibility of content for individuals with mobility disabilities. Some people do not have use of, or do not have arms, hands or fingers. Additionally, many other individuals have limited control of their arms, others have diminishing fine motor controls. All of these individuals might have difficulty using a mouse, many only use the keyboard to navigate. Others use items such as trackballs, adaptive keyboards, headwands, mouthsticks, and speech recognition software.

Hearing Disabilities

Hearing disabilities include a range of hearing impairments beyond those that cannot hear at all. Providing captions and transcripts provide a lifeline to content for these individuals.

Cognitive Disabilities

For individuals with cognitive disabilities such as learning disabilities, distractibility, comprehension challenges, and dyslexia, disorganized content is the most important barrier to accessibility and their ability to interact with media. These individuals benefit from well structured, semantically organized media that provide multiple means of access that can include, text, illustrations, diagrams, video or audio.

Speech Disabilities

Some people have a difficult time speaking or cannot speak at all. This is an especially important population to consider as technology begins to move more towards spoken controls for interactive devices (such as Google Home and Amazon's Echo).

Transitory Disabilities

An often overlooked area of accessibility are the needs of individuals who are temporarily unable to access media in certain ways. This can include situations like these:

  • Where audio would disturb those around us (such as on a bus or in a waiting room).
  • When we are caring for a child and cannot be focused consistently on a screen.
  • Perhaps we are just having a difficult time concentrating when we are tired.
  • Brightly lit rooms with dim computer displays or projections can make screens difficult to see.

Inclusion and Disability

Any disability can make it difficult to be part of society in a way that has normalcy and flow. Inclusion normally speaks to being respectful to people of all colors, genders, ethnicities, etcetera. It seems that one could include the disabilities that are addressed here under the umbrella of inclusion. What all of us, abled or disabled, really want is not just accommodation or acceptance. What we really want is to be a part of the social fabric of the immediate world in which we live.