Digital accessibility starts with digital literacy.

Digital Accessibility Starts with Literacy

Digital accessibility starts with digital literacy.
Courtesy of GAAD

“For some people, an accessible internet literally makes a world of difference.” Web accessibility advocate Joe Devon wrote this statement in a 2011 blog that single-handedly led to what is now the 13th annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), which occurs on the third Thursday of each May. When digital accessibility professional Jennison Ascuncion stumbled upon the blog on Twitter, he and Devon joined forces and spread the idea of an awareness day across the internet like a wildfire. Now, the internet is more accessible than ever before, and it is indeed making a world of difference for people with disabilities. But there is always more work to do when it comes to accessibility and digital literacy.

Barriers to Accessibility

As defined on GAAD’s website, “Digital accessibility refers to the ability of people with disabilities/impairments to independently consume and/or interact with digital (e.g., web, mobile) applications and content.”

However, the digital divide remains wide, with just 3% of the internet being accessible to people with disabilities. This prevents those with disabilities from finding assistive technology as well as opportunities for employment and engagement in their community. Considering people with disabilities make up 15% of the world’s population, lack of internet accessibility is a vital issue.

For the sixth consecutive year, GAAD gauged the internet’s level of accessibility by turning to WebAIM’s evaluation of home pages for the world’s top one million web sites. Across this sample, the 2024 analysis identified the following:

  • 9% of home pages with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2) failures
  • An average of 56.8 detectable errors per home page
  • 8% of all home page elements with a detected accessibility error (Users with disabilities encountering errors on 1 in every 21 home page elements)
WCAG failures

The causes of most common accessibility failures are:

  • Low contrast text
  • Missing alternative text for images
  • Missing form input labels
  • Empty links
  • Empty buttons
  • Missing document language

As this shows, the world wide web still has a long way to go, but what’s even more important than making websites and digital tools more accessible is making sure people with disabilities know how to use them in the first place.

Digital Literacy Services

In recent legislation, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) highlighted the importance of digital literacy as a critical need among those with disabilities who are unemployed. To address this need, Easterseals Crossroads is now offering Digital Literacy Assessment (DLA) services to assess a person’s digital knowledge and skills, identify potential gaps in those skills, and provide recommendations to various training programs and services intended to close those gaps.

Digital literacy services

“I think getting the word out about access to digital literacy is still vital, and there is room to grow,” said Digital Literacy Lead Siera Nash. “Many folks don’t realize that people with disabilities can feel — or even be — ostracized from a world that’s gone digital. Making sure that people with disabilities not only have access to the internet but also knowledge of navigating the digital world is essential.”

DLA services are available to all Vocational Rehabilitation participants, and they start with an assistive technology assessment to identify any supports needed before moving on to training modules proctored in person by a specialist.

Training modules are available for the following:

  • Basic Computer Skills
  • Internet Basics
  • Using Email
  • Windows
  • MacOS
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Google Docs
  • Social Media
  • Information Literacy
  • Career Search Skills
  • Telehealth Appointments
  • Distance Education
  • Digital Footprint

“We also use this assessment time to get to know the consumer and their goals with digital literacy and employment,” Nash said. “Once the assessment is completed, our specialist writes a report and makes recommendations based on the consumer’s digital knowledge baseline. I am currently working with a consumer whose baseline knowledge at the beginning was really low. The consumer struggled, especially with internet and computer basics. But through the training program created for the individual, they are now scoring double what they had been. Not only did their scores improve, but they can practically apply the knowledge they’ve gained in everyday life.”

Through a grant from Comcast-NBC-Universal, Easterseals Crossroads is also able to offer digital literacy services to Project SEARCH Indiana, which provides employment and educational opportunities for final-year high school students with disabilities.

As one of Project SEARCH Indiana’s instructors, Jill Rusk, said, “It helps them build confidence, life skills and preparation for employment, along with increasing conversation skills. They’ve grown from it.”

Steps Toward DLA Services

DLA services are provided in various locations throughout the state. A primary DLA lab is located at Easterseals Crossroads’ Assistive Technology Center in Indianapolis, and portable DLA workstations are also available to provide assessments in community locations or consumers’ homes across Indiana.

DLA referrals should be emailed to Megan Henderson in the Assistive Technology Center at Easterseals Crossroads. For any other information, email Siera Nash.

One comment:

  1. When it comes to navigating the intricate world of academic coursework, seeking reliable assistance can be a game-changer. A reputable coursework writing service can provide invaluable support in ensuring your assignments are impeccably crafted and delivered on time, freeing you from the burden of academic stress. If you’re in search of such assistance, I highly recommend visiting With a track record of excellence and a team of experienced professionals, they offer tailored solutions to meet your academic needs. Whether you’re grappling with complex topics or facing tight deadlines, entrusting your coursework to a trusted service can pave the way for academic success.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *