AODA and You: Turnabout and Fair Play

An image of a mobile device with braille text on it.

Thinking Ability First is not just about looking past physical and mental limitations, but it's about expanding everyone's horizons.

Earlier this morning, we had the honour of attending Ability First's Champions Awards celebration, which featured a keynote address by six-time world champion and 13-time Paralympic medalist Jeff Adams.

Adams shared the lessons he learned from his athletic experience and showed examples of how the foundations of that message remained true, both in victory and in defeat.

It's a message of inclusion, accessibility, and hope. It's a message of inclusion and sharing. And it's the foundation behind AODA legislation and, for those involved in the Web world, WCAG 2.0 compliance.

That message is also why we're such staunch advocates of accessible Web design at Digital Echidna. It's what motivates us to learn more, explore opportunities, and share our knowledge with our clients and colleagues.

You have a message to share – so why would you want to restrict that message's potential audience. "Level the playing field – make it fair," Adams said. That's what accessibility is all about: a philosophy of ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to learn, grow, and showcase their abilities, without artificially constructed impediments.

In discussing a facility built to maximize accessibility, Adams said that once they opened the doors to everyone – both those with disabilities and without – "That's when they got it right."

Accessibility is not about special treatment or exclusion – it's about inclusion and bringing together all people. It's about fostering natural diversity through accessibility.

And putting yourself into the user's shoes can help you better understand your own strengths and limitations. In recounting a story about his friends joining him in a game of wheelchair basketball, he said, "When they took that step to understand [my situation], it made them better."

We can apply that to our business efforts. Either by reaching out to those in the community for help, or trying to change our mindset as we prepare and design our projects, we can improve our end result by thinking accessibility (or 'Ability') first. It's a topic we addressed early on, by getting first-hand expressions of the importance of accessibility from a pair of Ontario-based advocates.

As we've mentioned in the past, there are tremendous benefits to businesses that are producing and presenting their Web content in an accessible manner. In addition to opening up our potential marketplace to the widest possible group, it also forces us to take a good, hard look at our content: Is it easily understandable? Are the creative elements in place to adequately highlight our message? Are we getting in the way of ourselves with cumbersome design and on-line elements?

There's so much more to do and learn. Accessibility isn't just a cause célèbre with the January 1st date looming in the distance. It isn't just an issue to which we've attached ourselves because it looks good.

Accessibility is at the heart of good Web design. It's at the core of quality content creation. And, most importantly, it's just the right thing to do for your business, for society, and for yourself.

We invite you to check out our e-pub on Accessibility (click on the link at the top left-hand side of this post), or peruse our archive of accessibility blog posts. And if we can help you in any way, we welcome your questions, feedback, and advice! Send us an e-mail at [email protected] or Tweet us at @DigitalEchidna.

And now we turn it over to you. What are your thoughts on accessibility and thinking Ability First? If you attended today's event, what were your takeaways; and if you didn't, how does accessibility efforts impact your day-to-day life and/or business practices.

Comments are open.

Questions Answered

What is accessible Web design?

Why is accessibility important?

Why should I make my Website accessible?



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