Accessibility News - Summary for the Week of March 31st, 2017 Mar 31, 2017

Computer screen with "Accessibility in the News" written on it

March is already coming to a close, and it’s a great time to look back at some of the biggest accessibility stories from the past week. If you are a small business owner with a website, you are going to want to pay attention to our top story from the week. Apparently the IRS is looking to make it financially worth your while to create an accessible website.  We are also going to take a look at digital accessibility for university libraries. As a former disabled university student, I think a lot can be done to help students through digital accessibility so it’s great to see the leaders in the field taking notice. Finally, we’ll just quickly talk about a community center being hailed for their accessibility and travel to India where they’re trying to close the digital accessibility divide. That’s a lot, so let’s get started!

Another Incentive to Make Your Site Accessible

According to the Bureau of Internet Accessibility, the IRS is about to make it even more practical for website owners to create accessible websites. According to the article, “Through the IRS Code Section 44, Disabled Access Credit, your small business can qualify for a tax credit for increasing website accessibility and making other accommodations to make your business more usable to persons with disabilities.”[1] If you meet the requirements, and you take the right steps, you might just qualify for a $5,000 credit!

First, it’s important to know that your business cannot have an annual revenue above $1million and you can’t have more than 30 fulltime employees (according to the article). If you meet both of those requirements, look into the credit more, it could be a great incentive to kick your website accessibility plan into high gear.

Learn more about the IRS plan to make more websites accessible by visiting the Bureau of Internet Accessibility’s website. They also share a handy link to the form you’ll need to fill out to apply for the credit.

Scholarship and Accessibility

If you have attended or plan to attend a university at some point, hitting the books in the library will probably become a big part of your study routine. If you have a disability (or if you are like me and develop one during your time at university) you might wonder how accessible the library will be for you to use. Will it be simple? Will you need to request accommodations like digital books? While most universities have a disabilities services office or liaison, it still is important for facilities created for all students to truly support all of its students.

The American Libraries website just published an excellent article about just this concern called, Implications for Accessibility in Academic Libraries. One exciting future application of library university’s digital services is in the realm of Big Data, “The presenters noted that Big Data can enhance accessibility as it provides a means to explore new ways to comprehend data relationships, and it demonstrates areas of concern and opportunity for services.”[2] The article does a great job of covering the concerns that need to be examined as new and trending technologies start to make more appearances in university libraries. Considerations like making sure there are alternatives for using CAPTCHA for verification need to be planned for so that all students can use the technology.

Read the full article and see what university libraries are doing about accessibility as they being adopting these new technologies.

Getting Physical Accessibility Right

In another bit of good news, a leisure center is being recognized for its commitment to accessibility. In an article entitled, Witham Leisure Centre recognised for its disabled access, the Braintree & Witham Times shows how important paying attention to a building’s accessibility really is. While every building should be accessible (and it is a bit unfortunate that it’s so rare that when it goes right it makes the news) it’s a good start.

Learn more about the facility here, and maybe you’ll get some inspiration for your local community center!

International Digital Accessibility

We know that digital accessibility is a global problem. The internet developed extremely quickly, and often was built without too much attention paid to accessibility concerns. Some countries have regulations regarding digital accessibility, some do not. But the more pervasive the internet becomes, the more digital innovators are pushing to develop a more inclusive internet. It is more than just unfair to create an inaccessible internet. It is also unwise because millions of people across the globe need accessibility modifications in order to access important content and shop/sell things on e-commerce websites. If these sites are inaccessible, the site owners are losing out on a lot of potential business deals, valuable subscribers, intelligent contributors, and so on.

The New Indian Express talks about the issue too, stating that a lecturer recently brought up just how important the issue is, “Addressing the urban lecture series on accessibility in Smart Cities, held here on Tuesday, Mohapatra said, accessibility is no more an entitlement, it is a basic right of the PWDs.”[3] A basic right. That’s true, succinct, and a great way to put it. Let’s hope that more people take note and begin to build digital accessibility into their websites and products from the outset instead of ignoring the issue or developing sub-par fixes that are not as useful as they should be for people who need accommodations.

If you want to learn a bit more about accessibility and online shopping, read our blog post Why Your Online Store is Losing Money by Delaying Accessibility Improvements.

Read more about the gap in the New Indian Express article, Smart Cities' Digital Divide: Call for Focus on Accessibility.

What news stories did you pay the most attention to over the last week? Do you have any thoughts or insight into stories that you think we should cover? Share your accessibility news thoughts in the comments below and let us all know what you think.

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