Today’s knowledge-based economy requires all workers to continually update their existing skills and learn new ones. For workers with disabilities, this presents a double hurdle: They must contend with accessibility issues both in the workplace and in their learning environment.
Fortunately, many organizations have worked to increase the accessibility of learning opportunities, especially as they relate to the workplace. Here are some resources that offer useful information to learners, learning providers and employers interested in understanding more about accessibility issues for workers with disabilities.
Federal Agencies The Access Board is the federal agency primarily concerned with accessibility issues. Created by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, it outlines accessibility requirements for buildings, vehicles, telecommunication devices and, recently, information services. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division provides information on and, if necessary, enforces compliance with accessibility rules. The US Department of Labor offers guidance on the rights of workers with disabilities and the responsibilities of employers, including a list of frequently asked questions regarding hiring and accommodating these workers. The Labor Department’s Job Accommodation Network provides information on workplace accommodations and the ADA’s employment provisions. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commissionn (EEOC) brings the power of federal law to bear when workers with disabilities face employment discrimination. The US Department of Education sponsors the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to maximize the inclusion and employment of workers with disabilities. The Federal Communications Commission oversees the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which has a number of provisions designed to increase opportunities for people with hearing, visual, speech or other disabilities to effectively telecommunicate.
Educational and Employment Resources The HEATH Resource Center at George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development is a US Department of Education-supported national clearinghouse on postsecondary education for workers with disabilities. It serves as an information exchange about educational support services and opportunities at US campuses, vocational-technical schools and other postsecondary training entities. The Center on Disabilities at California State University, Northridge, sponsors an annual international conference on technology and disability issues. The Disability Statistics Center at the University of California at San Francisco is a clearinghouse for statistical information on disabilities in the US. The National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH, the folks who brought you closed-captioning on TV, do research on making mass media accessible to workers with disabilities. The Resource Partnership, which has an alliance with Monster Diversity & Inclusion, works to improve the quality of life of workers with disabilities by uniting employers, rehabilitation and referral agencies and workers with disabilities.
Accessibility and Usability Resources LD OnLine’s Tech Guide is a comprehensive listing of assistive technology devices by type with links to sources and information about the devices. ABLEDATA, supported by NIDRR, provides a database of assistive technology devices and tools. Bobby, created by the Center for Applied Special Technology and now supported by Watchfire, is a popular Web site accessibility test tool that helps Web page authors identify and repair significant barriers to access by workers with disabilities. Microsoft has developed built-in accessibility features for its products to ensure they are useable and accessible to those workers with disabilities. Usability.gov is a helpful resource on Web site and user interface usability and accessibility issues maintained by the US Department of Health and Human Services. The World Wide Web Consortium, the organization that creates Web standards, has implemented the Web Accessibility Initiative to promote accessibility of the Web through five areas of work: technology, guidelines, tools, education and outreach, and research and development.