Navigating The ADA While Blind
July 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As an American born in 1987 with congenital glaucoma, I have had the benefit of living almost my entire life with the rights and benefits afforded to me under the ADA. In truth, it is likely impossible to identify all of the specific ways in which I have benefited from the ADA, but some of the key areas include education, technology, and a greater societal awareness of the needs of people with disabilities.
Thanks to the ADA’s requirements under Title II, all schools, colleges, and universities that are managed by state or local governments are prohibited from discrimination in their programs and activities. This requirement, along with other requirements found in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and other laws and regulations have greatly expanded educational opportunities for people with disabilities. As a college graduate and a firm believer in the benefits of a higher education for personal and professional growth, I am extraordinarily grateful for the access to educational opportunities the ADA has given me.
While the ADA was passed in 1990 before many of the technologies we take for granted today were invented or widely available, the law has in many ways proven to withstand the test of time. The ADA’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodations (Title III) has been used quite effectively by disability rights organizations to help ensure that many of the technologies, products, and services we use today are accessible to people with disabilities.
One of the most notable examples of this is Netflix and the high level of accessibility now provided by their app. Given the important role that television and Netflix in particular have come to play in modern American life, it is hard to imagine the idea of not having equal access to Netflix and its content. Netflix is now highly accessible to screen reader users, and includes captions and audio descriptions for a massive selection of their titles.
The ADA has helped promote a much greater awareness of the needs of people with disabilities. The rights and protections granted by the ADA have helped ensure more individuals with disabilities are educated, employed, and empowered to contribute and participate in society. As a result, the public is able and forced to engage more with people with disabilities, and this creates better awareness and understanding for everyone involved.
This greater awareness can be seen in my own work at Accessible360, where we see more and more clients reaching out to us to make their site accessible because they’ve heard about digital accessibility and want to do the right thing by making their site accessible to all.
Aaron Page is a Senior Accessibility Engineer & Legal Lead at Accessible360. Upon losing his remaining functional vision in 2009 due to congenital glaucoma, Aaron attended Lions World Services for the Blind to study independent living and assistive technology skills. After learning the requisite skills to succeed as a blind person, Aaron enrolled in the University of Montana where he earned his B.S. in Business Administration and began to work in the arena of digital accessibility. Aaron joined the Accessible360 team in February 2018 as a screen reader auditor.