My passion to start Path to Access was fueled by a woman named Glenda Watson Hyatt. I met Glenda while attending a high-tech trade show. She was selling her book “I’ll do it myself” which details her life growing up and living with Cerebral Palsy. Because cerebral palsy has a great effect on speech and mobility, Glenda relies on a motorized wheelchair for mobility and a keyboard for her communication. I bought her book and was very eager to learn more about Glenda. Instead of going directly into the show, I found a quiet spot in the convention center and read the book cover to cover. I missed much of the trade show but her book gave me one of most valuable lessons I’ve ever had. Meeting Glenda literally changed my life.

Image of the book Before reading “I’ll do it Myself” I was unaware of the many limitations the Internet presents to those with disabilities. Imagine a world where buildings no longer have ramps or elevators, Braille doesn’t exist and closed captioning goes away. For those with certain disabilities, accessing the Internet is like trying to access a two story building without an elevator.

The U.S. government recognized the need for accessibility on the Internet and in 1998, amended the Rehabilitation Act. This required Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to those with disabilities. This legal standard is known as Section 508. Because so much business in conducted on the Internet, it is important that more than just government sites be accessible to everyone. Many companies not only encourage customers to use their website, but penalize those requiring live phone assistance by charging fees. While it may not be realistic for every website to be accessible, websites serving the public such as banking, travel, education, retails sales, social networking etc should be available to all users.

Glenda has opened my eyes to the importance and benefit of accessibility on the Internet. Accessible websites don’t just benefit those with disabilities. It is estimated 10-15% of America is still using a dialup connection. Many websites are built to perform with only high speed connections in mind. So, those using dialup will not be able to view the full website as it’s intended to be viewed.

Accessibility starts with awareness and understanding. To learn more about accessibility or Path to Access, please contact us at info@pathtoaccess.com.

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