Advocating for Disability Rights

Advocating for Disability Rights
Disability protesters advocating to #SaveCDPAP in the state capitol in March.
By Phil Prehn, Systems Change Advocate

The fight to make our society more accessible has been the most successful when people with disabilities make their voices heard. Often, the laws that are supposed to help us just aren’t enough—and they need updates and adaptation—something that government and legal bureaucrats may not know is needed.  As my grandfather used to say–“If you don’t blow your own horn, you may often go without music.”

This is especially true when it comes to one of the most influential parts of modern day life—the internet.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed on July 26th, 1990, three years before the World Wide Web was open for public use.​ The A.D.A. has no specific written guidance on the internet. The A.D.A. Act’s specific sections, called Titles, describe the expectations for accessibility on employment, public services, public accommodations and telecommunications.​ 

Just this month, the U.S. Department of Justice has finalized extensive updates on rules for the accessibility of government services—and has ​created a template for all local, state and federal websites to follow in order to be considered accessible. 

Disability rights activists have been pushing officials to update internet accessibility regulations for several years.  If you’ve been at ARISE for a few years, you may have filled out an action alert or two urging some of these changes. This is how change happens. Incremental changes reach a tipping point that sparks more widespread change. Requiring government sites to all follow the same extensive requirements will likely nudge privately owned sites to adopt the same formats.