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Richard Corby

  Web Accessibility

12/10/2012

Wiki Launches Accessibility Toolkit to Empower People with Disabilities to use Social Media in Emergencies

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Richard Corby highlights the importance of setting up the Emergency 2.0 Wiki Accessibility Reference Group for use by persons with disabilities during emergencies and natural disasters.

On behalf of the Emergency 2.0 Wiki Accessibility Reference Group, I’m really excited to announce the launch of the Emergency 2.0 Wiki Accessibility Toolkit to help people with disabilities to use social media to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.

The online toolkit provides tips, resources and apps to help people with a disability to overcome accessibility challenges of social media. The kit also includes guidelines to assist the emergency sector, government, community, media and business to make social media messages more accessible.

The reason for developing the kit is that we’ve witnessed from recent disasters that social media can save lives, but people with disabilities often have difficulty accessing important messages because the social media platforms themselves are inaccessible.

It’s vitally important that people with disabilities, who are the most vulnerable in our communities during emergencies, are empowered to access instant, lifesaving messages through social media and the accessibility toolkit enables this.

For example, the main Twitter website can’t be easily read with a screen reader, a program that reads out information on a screen for people who are blind. In the kit we point users to alternative sites such as Easy Chirp to read tweets. As people tweet in real time, an accessible app such as this can provide immediate notification of when a fire starts or when flash floods hit a town.

Accessibility resources on the wiki include:
  • Tips and guides for people with disabilities on how to access social media
  • Emergency smartphone apps for people with a disability
  • Apps and assistive technologies to access social media
  • Emergency Preparedness YouTube videos that are either captioned or use sign language for the deaf and hearing impaired
  • Practical guidelines to assist the emergency sector, government, community, media and business to make social media messages more accessible

In a whole of community approach, the Accessibility Reference Group crowdsourced the content globally using social media. The group consists of professionals drawn from the emergency, government, NGO, and business sectors in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. They are:

  • Australia – Richard Corby, Director at Webbism and Leader of the Reference Group
  • Australia – Scott Hollier, Manager, Major Projects & Western Australia Manager for Media Access Australia and W3C Advisory Committee representative
  • USA – Kim Stephens, Senior Associate at Abt Associates and author of the idisaster2.0 blog
  • USA – Stephanie Jo Kent, Working Group on Emergency Interpreting at Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. and Founder, Learning Labs for Resiliency (Springfield, Massachusetts, USA
  • USA – Brigitta Norton, Web Portal Business Consultant, Office of the Chief Technology Officer, Government of the District of Columbia
  • NZ – Caroline Milligan, Consultant SMEM NZ and Team leader, NZ VOST – Virtual Operations Support Team (New Zealand)

The reference group’s aim is to build the resilience of people with disabilities through encouraging the use of social media in emergency preparation, response and recovery.

Check out the Accessibility Toolkit and share it with others. If you know of a resource we should add, please let us know. Also, we’d love to have your feedback on the kit.

We’re looking to expand the group to include representation from each continent, so if you are from Europe, Asia, South America or Africa and you are working in the social media/accessibility field, please email me at richard@webbism.com.