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Robert Pearson

  Accessible Media


An Accessibility Bill of Rights for Digital Inclusion

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With the World Wide Web celebrating a quarter of century of being in existence, Robert Pearson explores what a Bill of Rights for Digital Inclusion should comprise, for a more inclusive web.

World Wide Web

Image: Would an Accessibility Bill of Rights be pertinent to only persons with disabilities or would it serve us all – users of all abilities?

Recently, on the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, its founding father Tim Berners Lee called for the creation of a Bill of Rights for the citizens of the web. Not long after this declaration, the 29th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN) took place in San Diego. In attending this conference, it became an appropriate environment to consider what an Internet Bill of Rights may look like from the perspective of the accessibility of content and media as well as digital inclusion.

Two common traits of those passionate about accessibility are that they do what they do because it's the right thing to do and they do it to eventually put themselves out of work.

Who is it then that we are fighting for? Is it an ongoing campaign for freedom from missing alternative text for those who require it? I would imagine that these rights would be defined as something greater than principles, guidelines and standards and certainly something more than perceivable, operable, usable, and robust. They would be defined as rights. Rights that those accessing the World Wide Web could expect to receive, regardless of the platform or means in which they decide to do so and regardless of their own unique abilities.

An Internet Bill of Rights should feature some of these foundational points:

  • Input method: Users have the right to access content through the input method that they choose, whether that be through a mouse, keyword, touch, assistive technology device or some other means as yet defined.
  • Universal Design: Users have the right to expect to receive the same information and experiences as everyone else, regardless of the means in which it is presented.
  • Media rich inventory: Users can expect to either receive image content or it's alternative text content.

Whether it's simply a plain language definition of WCAG 2.0, or something more, there is an ideal here that should be pursued. One question, though, is how would it be enforced? The W3C would not have the regulatory backing to do so. Could it be included in the CRPD? Or is it already? Would the rights be open to interpretation? It's almost something that could be enforced by some form of “world body” or international institution.

However, it doesn't need to wait. Digital inclusion on the web for content and media is becoming an ever more prevalent topic and needs professionals and users and other stakeholders to come together and begin discussions. If you'd be interested in discussing your thoughts around what an Accessibility Bill of Rights for Digital Inclusion may look like, please leave a comment.


Related Resources

Blog: Enabling Environments for Persons with Disabilities: How Much Progress Has Been Achieved? | Read Viviana Montenegro's Article.

Publication: Developing e-Accessibility as a Professional Skill | Download Free PDF.

Event: 2014 M-Enabling Summit on Accessible Mobile Technology for Seniors and Users of All Abilities | June 9-10, 2014, Washington, DC | View Event Details.