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Accessibility in the world around us

Walking around as an individual three years ago, I was unaware of the challenges that others may be having moving in the same space that I was. Now three years later, having gone through pregnancy, having a baby in a stroller, and then having that baby learn to walk, I have become more aware of some of the challenges that other people who utilize wheelchairs or are visually impaired may be encountering. From broken or blocked sidewalks to train stations with no working elevators.

This post is partly inspired by a conversation with a friend about the Google doodle today. My friend said he had no idea what the bumps on the sidewalks and the train stations were for. We started discussing the different improvements that have been made to enable people with visual impairments to move around more safely. Sidewalks having cut-outs, ramps being added to building entrances with stairs, crosswalks now making noise, etc. But we both agreed that there are still many challenges many people face that most of us don’t even acknowledge.

Recently, I came to face my own mobility issues while trying to take my child on public transit in a stroller. The single elevator was experiencing some issues when I got to the train station. I quickly popped my child out of his stroller and collapsed it down; I then lugged all 40+ pounds up a flight of stairs. While I was upset that it came down to that, I was grateful that I had the physical capabilities to carry the load. I know that for people who are in a wheelchair, that isn’t likely going to be just an inconvenience and an additional 2 minutes; it could be an added hour best-case scenario.

Then this news story about a mother dying carrying her child and stroller downstairs at a train station pops into my news feed, and I start rethinking my decision to carry the load.

Given the average life span of 70+ in the United States, research shows that the average person will spend 8 years of their life with some form of disability.

As people of my generation age (the last generation to remember life without the internet), we are becoming more and more likely to be in the group requiring accessibility fixes for websites and applications that we currently take for granted. I know that I already find myself zooming in on sections of text that are long because my eyes have trouble focusing on screens for long periods of time. Making a website accessible should not be an afterthought. It should be a part of the built-in development process. Like jobs focused on social media presence and management, I hope that jobs focused on accessibility are considered more of a no-brainer sooner than later.

Penny Kronz, CPACC
VP of DubBot Client Services
~ accessibility specialist, web developer, mom