Leading the Way for Inclusive Information and Communication Technology

Next year marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, (ADA). The ADA was the world's first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities. The intent of the ADA was “to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities." Since that time, many barriers to access have been removed. However, the Internet as we know it today did not exist when the ADA was signed and many barriers to information and communication technology have yet to be removed.

The internet has changed the way government serves the public. Nowadays, most people look for information online, or through smart phones and tablets. Online information and services not only makes life easier for everyone, but also enable government to work more efficiently and at a lower cost.

Whether you are looking for a place to vote, applying for college financial aid, looking for public services, or filling out an on-line application, on-line information must be accessible to persons with disabilities. More people are using smart phones and tablets nowadays, which allow the government to work more efficiently and at a lower cost, particularly when applications are accessible and usable by everyone.

When we talk about accessible Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) we are talking about making all of the electronic information available to people with disabilities. Not only are we referring to the systems managed by IT, but also the reports and presentations we post on our websites and send through email attachments. “Inclusive” ICTs are ICTs that can be used by individuals with disabilities just like everyone else. Remember, what’s helpful for people with disabilities makes user experiences better for everyone.

Think about it: if an online application system cannot be used by persons with disabilities, these people will never “get through the front door” to apply for a job. Additionally, after a person with a disability is hired their contributions to the workplace may be significantly compromised if they are not provided with accessible ICT and training.

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act calls on state and local governments to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities are afforded equal opportunity to participate in state and local government programs and services. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires Federal agencies to comply with accessibility standards; and, many states have established laws and policies that mirror Section 508.

In light of this evolving legal landscape, the State ADA Coordinator’s Office is working with AMAC Accessibility Solutions at Georgia Tech and the Georgia Technology Authority to help state agencies learn how to make ICT accessible and usable for all staff and customers. By working together, Georgia will be a leader in reaching the ADA’s promise of equal opportunity.

How can you help?

Related to: