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Accessibility is essential

By Holli Kish, guest author

Have you ever experienced frustration due to issues with technology? We probably all have, whether it’s a malfunction in a zoom meeting, a website not working correctly, or a PDF form that doesn’t allow you to check boxes or add text to fillable fields. This can be very frustrating and even overwhelming for most of us.

Four learners discuss data on a display screen.

Now imagine having these issues while using a screen reader or other types of assistive technology — the screen reader does not read the form fields as fillable, or you are unable to hear a zoom meeting and there are no captions or interpreter. It would make it nearly impossible for us to be successful in our jobs. Yet this is what many of our friends, colleagues, co-workers, and family members with disabilities experience daily.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), disability affects about 61 million, or nearly 1 in 4 adults living in the United States. That means that for every 4 to 5 of your coworkers, one has a disability. And 20% of disabilities are hidden or invisible.

One of the most prevalent issues that people with disabilities have is access, especially access to digital content. In this post-COVID world where technology and digital content rule, changing the culture towards accessibility — and the larger picture of equity, diversity, access, and inclusion (EDAI) — requires us to get involved and become active participants. It is essential for us to work together and begin breaking down barriers.

In keeping with the Department of Social and Health Services’ commitment to EDAI, I would like to challenge you to get involved in celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on Thursday, May 19, 2022. There are many ways you can celebrate this critical day of awareness:

  • Begin educating yourself on accessibility and digital content. Start with your agency’s policies, guidelines, and resources. The University of Washington, Department of Services for the Blind, Usability.gov, WebAIM, and W3C Web Accessibility Initiative are also good resources.
  • Attend an accessibility webinar. The resources above have several opportunities.
  • Sign up for a LinkedIn Learning course on accessibility. Here’s a sample learning path.
  • Take the accessibility micro learnings through the Washington State Learning Center.
  • Build accessibility into your everyday workflow by writing an accessible email or using the accessibility checker in Microsoft products.
  • Make a commitment to yourself, your co-workers, and colleagues to advocate for accessibility.

What is your plan for raising your accessibility awareness and becoming an advocate?

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Holli Kish.

Holli Kish is currently the digital information accessibility manager for the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), working on all aspects of digital accessibility and compliance. Before joining the Human Resources Division L&D Team, she spent three years at the Community Colleges of Spokane as an IT project manager, IT accessibility coordinator, and Microsoft Teams expert working on the college’s equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) strategic plan and initiative for accessibility. Prior to that, Holli worked for Spokane Virtual Learning (Spokane Public Schools) for three years on many curriculum and accessibility projects.

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We deliver high quality, cost effective support services to state government. DES features expertise in statewide contracting, training, printing & mail operations, human resources and financial systems, facilities management, and care of the state capitol grounds and buildings.

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