Digital Inequality – I Can Enter Your Building, but Your Website Shows Me the Door

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The word accessibility can conjure up images of ramps and automatic doors, physical examples that are commonly understood and seen in the world around us. Yet it is rare to see the same kind of features in the digital world.

Digital accessibility refers to “the way people with a lived experience of a disability interact with the cyber world.”

For example, a seemingly innocent image CAPTCHA that tests whether you’re not, in fact, a robot is filled with accessibility challenges and issues. This article from The Conversation sees Scott (who is legally blind) unable to purchase football tickets due to the image CAPTCHA being inaccessible to him.

Inclusive websites contain welcome assistive tools, such as screen readers, high-contrast colour schemes and text magnifiers. However, many websites fail to take an inclusive approach.

Nearly one in five Australians live with some form of disability. When we consider the physical and cognitive impacts of ageing, this figure increases exponentially. So, why do our websites make things harder? A wheelchair user can’t purchase wheelchair seating online – they must call a special number to do so. But… why?

The World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines standard isn’t enforceable and adhering to any of its recommendations is often seen as a “box-ticking exercise”. While most people living with disability can live independently, websites continue to fail them.

So, what can we do? We need to ensure that the digital world becomes accessible by default, not as the exception. Digital accessibility needs to be defined as a right, not a privilege.

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