Policy and Practice
Great strides have been made in creating policies and practices designed to make physical workspaces more accessible, equitable and comfortable for all. However, these policies may need tweaking and reconsideration as we shift work into digital spaces. This may include:
- How you communicate with your stakeholders in ways that center Disability Justice.
- How you co-create norms and agreements for gathering.
- How you prevent and address conflict.
- How you acknowledge, and strategize to overcome, the inequities in access to digital resources, specifically as it intersects with low-income stakeholders and rural communities
Social Media And Websites
Increasing accessibility is simpler than you may think! Here are a few things you can do:
Alt Tags: Alt tags are brief but detailed descriptions of any and all images on your website and social media that can support people who may have low vision. You can also add keywords to your alt tags as long as it’s related to the image and fits into the allotted space. Check out this great guide on how to add alt tags!
Transcripts: Providing transcripts of presentations and workshops can be useful for participants, especially if you can’t provide captions or a sign language interpreter.
Accessible Design: When designing for your website (or anything!) keep in mind that certain design principles can help make your content much easier to access. An example would be using fonts that are large, bold and high contrast. Graphic elements can also help add visual weight to more important information and can be used to divide sections of information. There is a link in the resources below that helps to find and adjust these issues.
Accessibility of Language: When tackling issues of accessibility it’s crucial to use plain language. It should be logical, active, short and common usage. This will ensure that your text will be easily understood by as many people as possible. Accessible language also means non-ableist language, for example:
- Deaf/hard of hearing NOT hearing impaired.
- Wheelchair user NOT wheelchair bound.
- Blind/low vision NOT visually impaired.
- Disabled or disability identified NOT handicapped.
While these are good guidelines to follow, asking individuals how they would prefer to be identified is always the best idea. Websites like prowritingaid.com can help with editing and also let you know the readability of your website. You can pay or use the free version.
From Our Expert
Check out this presentation from Kristina McMullin, Disability Communications Specialist at Tangled Arts.
Thankfully, there are many resources available to help make your content accessible:
- Accessify, a site that will run a free performance test on your website and give you actionable items on how to optimize it.
- Tota11y, an accessibility visualization tool that can help see how your site performs with assistive technologies like screenreaders.
- The A11y Project, a collection of resources on accessibility topics.
- WebAim, which helps to expand the potential of the web for people with disabilities by providing the knowledge, technical skills, tools, organizational leadership strategies, and vision that empowers organizations to make their content accessible to people with disabilities.
- Tangled Arts, an organization dedicated to enhancing opportunities for artists with disabilities to contribute to the cultural fabric of our society.
- TSLIS, Toronto Sign Language Interpreter Service.
ADDRESSING ONLINE HARM
As online activity is woven throughout our everyday lives, we need to adjust the way we look at our online spaces to address the harm that may occur there. In order to create healthy and liberating participation for our communities, we need to co-create agreements for engagement and commit to upholding them. For an example of one type of agreement, check out this one from SKETCH:
Living our best lives online requires intention and awareness; take care to notice the ways that oppression shows up in our digital environments and strive to build solutions to prevent harm and center community care.
Here are some resources for building more equitable and braver online spaces:
- Community Agreements by Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group.
- Avoiding Digital Blackface, Social Media Accessibility and Inclusivity, University of Illinois.
- A review of Safiya Umoja Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression by Shelly A. Galliah, Michigan Tech.
- Check out Your Best Digital Self for more tips and possibilities.
ADDRESSING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
Many rural communities and Canadians navigating poverty face barriers to reliable internet and digital tools. Initiatives like Connecting Families funds internet service providers to offer lower rates to eligible families, however, it still leaves many Canadians without dependable access. Other offerings, like the Universal Broadband Fund, show promise, but we are far from having an infrastructure that allows everyone to participate fully as commerce, connection and opportunities are increasingly happening online.
There are some hidden, and hopefully growing options to address some of the barriers: grants aimed at building individual and organizational digital capacity, public libraries offering digital hubs and tools for creation that are available with a library card, and services to access free refurbished digital devices. Check to see what local options may be available to you and your community to maximize your digital access. This is an area for advocacy with granting organizations, and the three levels of government.
These resources may support some of your digital needs; there are also reports that address inequities in digital access across Canada.
- Digital Innovation Hubs set in several library locations across the GTA. Check to see if similar hubs exist in your community.
- Digital Main Street support for artists to build on-line stores.
- Digital Literacy Exchange Program federal support for non-profits to build digital literacy in their community.
- Digital Strategy Fund Canada Council for the Arts.
- Canada Media Fund various funding initiatives for digital creation.
- Bell Fund supporting media content creators.
- Digital Citizen Exchange Program for research and citizen-focused activities.
- Technology Helps Calgary-based digital support for non-profits including digital device exchange.
- Let’s Get Together Ontario-based refurbished laptop initiative.
- Mapping Toronto’s Digital Divide by the Ryerson Research Lab and Brookfield Institute.
- Barriers to Digital Equality and Digital Equity + Health by Acorn Canada.
- Tech Soup empowers charities and nonprofits with the effective use of technology, including access to discounted software, hardware and more.