Disabilities encompass a broad spectrum that affects a large portion of the population in a variety of ways. Disabilities impact how people can interact with their environment, often as a result of a system and a society that isn’t inclusive. As people, disabled or able-bodied, we all have the ability and responsibility to make the world a more accessible and inclusive place. From large actions such as calling for more accessible buildings, to everyday actions such as using a font that’s more dyslexia-friendly, there are things we can all do to be more inclusive of others. Below are some things that we can do to promote accessibility:
- One of the most important aspects of promoting the voices of people with disabilities is to listen. Listen carefully to what they have to say because they are the ones who are most aware of what it means to have a disability, what challenges are faced, and what supports are lacking or needed. Social media is an easy way of becoming more informed and understanding while ensuring that voices are being amplified instead of being talked over. Supporting artists and writers with disabilities is another way of helping ensure that the representation of disabilities in the media is accurate and authentic.
Recognize Your Biases
- Creating a more accessible and inclusive environment means being aware of any biases that may exist. Take notice of the language you use. Words have power, regardless of the saying about sticks and stones. The language we use can affect how we perceive both the world and each other. Learning about how the words that people with disabilities use to describe themselves is a good place to start. Consider as well, factors that are may restrict accessibility when organizing events or creating content and media. For example, when organizing events, it would be worth considering factors that might make the location or environment difficult to access or navigate for those with disabilities.
- There’s surprisingly a lot that we as individuals can do to make our communities a more inclusive place. Learning another language is always an asset, and sign language is no different. Some simple things that can be incorporated into everyday life that help increase accessibility are:
- Know some basic sign language – This can ease the challenges that individuals who are hard of hearing have in communicating with others, especially when masks increase the difficulty of lip-reading.
- Using sans serif fonts – Fonts such as Helvetica, Courier, and Verdana (pre-set fonts in Word) can increase the readability of text for people with dyslexia. Using bold instead of italics when writing and having sufficient spacing between lines are other simple things that can make reading easier.
- Creating a more accessible environment – Keeping a room well-lit and clear of any tripping hazards and can benefit everyone, not just people with disabilities. On social media, consider having descriptions of the post’s content in the captions for people who are visually impaired. Instagram, for example, can recognize “alt-text” (which is an image description) that will be automatically read by screen readers.