Accessibility and the law

Posted February 17th, 2007

The Digital Web Magazine led me to the article, Computer-based exam discriminated against blind candidate. A blind IT project manager who wanted to gain certification in project management did not have an accessible version of the computer-based exam made available to her by the company that provides the exam. Proceedings have been brought against the company as you can read in the article. I am not qualified to comment on any of the legal matters, so I won’t.

I just wonder why such issues arise.

Why does anyone have to go to court about this sort of issue? Why is assistive technology not provided as the most natural thing in the world, especially in a case like this? Why is documentation not made available in different formats automatically, one of those formats being one that can be handled by a screen reader. I know there are many companies in the UK (where this incident took place) who can provide advice or guidance in setting up accessible test. It is not as if the knowledge wasn’t readily available. Why do people always have to learn the hard way, especially when the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 (UK) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) (US) exist?

Technical communicators can produce the accessible material. There are many qualified technical communicators out there who have the know-how to use authoring tools and authoring techniques so any company can produce different documents for different requirements, such as those for a screen reader. Some technical communicators could also advise their companies about preparedness in such a situation. They could assist with the strategic planning for documentation from Day 1, so that when requests come in for accessible material, the process and materials are already in place.

Perhaps I just have a simple and naive view of the situation?

PS Here are some additional links for your reading pleasure.

The website from the UK government with information for people with disabilities, including rights and obligations.

The ADA home page for everything related to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Update: I added a trackback to  an article discussing this topic over at the E-Access Bulletin Live blog.


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