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Sharyn Morrow, CPACC Posts

The 32nd Anniversary of the ADA

How We Got Here

On this day in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. This historic civil rights legislation is intended to protect the rights of people with disabilities (like myself and my family members and many others I care about). The Administration for Community Living has a page with some backstory and a timeline of ADA milestones. Members of the disability community have been commemorating the anniversary in different ways. Too many to post!

Where We’re At

Where We’re Headed

As many have noted, the ADA was a hard-won victory and a great starting point. Unfortunately, the laws aren’t always enforced. Demystifying Disability author Emily Ladau shared a post about waiting for the ADA to be fully realized. We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation author and journalist Eric Garcia wrote an article about “how endangered disability rights are” and “why many people within the community are afraid the ADA is next on the chopping block.” Read the full piece: How this Supreme Court is setting back disability rights — without even trying. We need to keep fighting for our rights. Perhaps on this anniversary, more than any other.

ADA 32 (1990-2022) Americans with Disabilities Act. Celebrate the ADA! July 26, 2022
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Giving, Receiving, and Sharing Information

Occasionally people outside of my field ask me to explain digital accessibility. I like to break it down to the basics. It’s about communication. About ensuring people can access information, unhindered. There’s a lot more nuance to it, of course. Especially with the minutiae involved in making that happen. But providing a few common examples usually gets the point across. For example, say you built a desktop web page. And users can only identify a link by hovering over it with a mouse or activating the link by clicking on it. Then people who use keyboards without a mouse will be unable to access the links. Likewise, for visually impaired and blind folks who use screen readers, an image on its own isn’t going to be useful. Unless that image is paired with a decent description of it.

Alt Text

A couple of things are on my mind today. First, alternative text on twitter. A while back, I started following the AltTxtReminder account. If you follow that account, you will automatically receive a direct message letting you know when you’ve posted an image without alt text. Twitter doesn’t allow editing published tweets, but one option is to quickly delete the tweet and recreate it with alt text. I think AltTxtReminder is a wonderful service but the account only has about 20,000 followers. A drop in the bucket considering there are close to 400 million twitter users. Today, Twitter officially began rolling out a similar feature. Twitter announced that this feature has been pushed to 10% of global users. Pretty neat.

Fun with Captions

First off, captions are designed for viewers who cannot hear the audio in a video. Subtitles are designed for viewers who can hear but do not understand the language being spoken in the video. I see these terms being used interchangeably. As in this fun write-up: Wet Writhing and Eldritch Gurgling: A Chat With the Stranger Things Subtitles Team. I’m a fan of the show and I’m glad other folks who enjoy it are getting a kick out of the captions. But sometimes less is more. I follow Deaf accessibility professional Meryl Evans on LinkedIn and Twitter and find her posts to be insightful.

If I notice the captions, it’s usually a sign that there’s a problem. I noticed them in Season 4, Chapter 5. There were too many sound captions. It took away from the show.

Imagine watching a baseball game and the captions show [thwack] every time someone hits the ball or [blip] when the ball lands in a glove. That would weigh down the viewing of the game.

Every sound does not need captioning. Just like when we describe images in alt text, the key is to describe them in context to the content. We don’t describe every single detail, only the key points.

The key is to answer: What sound is important to the story that may not be obvious from visuals?

Meryl Evans on LinkedIn

She has additional information on her site including a Captionioning Videos FAQ page and a Complete Guide to Captioning.


Lastly, a Twitter user posted a video of their latest Lego acquisition:

I got this minifig with a wheelchair and I was so excited like “ooh look at this representation” but turns out it’s also a representation of accessibility issues bc the wheelchair doesn’t fit through the door frames.

T.L. Pavlich

How bittersweet. But as Meryl Evans often says, this is about progress, not perfection.

A stone wall with a paper sign affixed to it with the text Examine what you tolerate
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Disability Pride Month Challenge

We’re nearly a week into July, but I’ve just found a great way to engage with Disability Pride Month. It’s not too late to join in! Visit Kelsey Lindell’s site to sign up for the challenge. She will email you a calendar of activities. These are things like listening to podcast episodes, watching the Crip Camp documentary, following disability activists, sharing information with friends and colleagues, etc. Below is information from her site.

Disabled people still don’t have our basic civil and human rights:

  • Due to a loophole in the law, there is no national minimum wage for disabled people. The average amount disabled people get paid is $3.34 an hour, versus the federal standard of $7.25.
  • 83% of disabled women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
  • Disabled women are twice as likely to be unemployed compared to nondisabled women.
  • People with intellectual disabilities are 7X more likely to be victims of sexual assault.
  • When a disabled person is unable to work, then the maximum disability benefit is $841 a month, which is a quarter below the federal poverty line.

This continues because most people don’t know this is happening. So, we’ve created a bootcamp for you. Each day you’ll get a prompt or call to action that will help you learn about ableism, disability history, disability justice and how to be a better ally. We’ll send you lists of amazing disabled creators to follow, podcasts to listen to, free events to attend, entertaining and educational clips and films to watch and so much more!

A charcoal grey flag with a diagonal band from the top left to bottom right corner, made up of five parallel stripes in red, gold, pale grey, blue, and green Description ends

Lastly, I’d like to share the Disability Pride Flag along with what the colors represent.

The Disability Pride Flag was a collaborative design effort by Ann Magill, a disabled woman, with feedback within the disabled community to refine its visual elements:

Having All Six “Standard” Flag Colors: signifying that Disability Community is pan-national, spanning borders between states and nations.

The Black Field: Mourning and rage for victims of ableist violence and abuse

The Diagonal Band: “Cutting across” the walls and barriers that separate the disabled from normate society, also light and creativity cutting through the darkness

The White Stripe: Invisible and Undiagnosed Disabilities

The Red Stripe: Physical Disabilities

The Gold Stripe: Neurodivergence

The Blue Stripe: Psychiatric Disabilities

The Green Stripe: Sensory Disabilities

Ann Magill, creator of the updated Disability Flag
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July is Disability Pride Month

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. This was decades in the making. For those unfamiliar with the history, one great starting point is the 2020 documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution. Growing up, I didn’t have any summer camp experiences (we were too poor). But I sent my son to a summer camp with an autism inclusion program. He wouldn’t have been able to attend otherwise. This program was in place thanks to the work of those who came before us. Disability Pride Month has been celebrated in July since 1990, along with the ADA victory. The disabled community isn’t a monolith. But members come together to support one another. Disability justice movements advocate for intersectional approaches to meet the needs of people with disabilities. The “nothing about us without us” mantra was born from this movement, expressing the conviction of people with disabilities that we know what is best for us.

Disability Pride Month looks to celebrate disability as an identity by sharing the experiences of the disabled community. The reason behind the month is a chance to share the joy and pride that disabled people can bring to their local and global communities. The disabled community is a vibrant part of society and makes up 15% of the population, and we are proud of that.

Caroline Casey for Forbes

This is the perfect time to remind folks about the anthology, Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century, edited by Alice Wong.

One in five people in the United States lives with a disability. Some disabilities are visible, others less apparent—but all are underrepresented in media and popular culture. Now, just in time for the thirtieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, activist Alice Wong brings together this urgent, galvanizing collection of contemporary essays by disabled people.

From Harriet McBryde Johnson’s account of her debate with Peter Singer over her own personhood to original pieces by authors like Keah Brown and Haben Girma; from blog posts, manifestos, and eulogies to Congressional testimonies, and beyond: this anthology gives a glimpse into the rich complexity of the disabled experience, highlighting the passions, talents, and everyday lives of this community. It invites readers to question their own understandings. It celebrates and documents disability culture in the now. It looks to the future and the past with hope and love.

Disability Visibility at Penguin Randomhouse

And Alice Wong is at it, again. This time with a memoir! I’ve pre-ordered my copy from my favorite local bookstore, Moon Palace. You can support local bookstores too!

Book cover for Year of the Tiger An Activist's Life by Alice Wong depicting a red tiger on a yellow background

This groundbreaking memoir offers a glimpse into an activist’s journey to finding and cultivating community and the continued fight for disability justice, from the founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project

In Chinese culture, the tiger is deeply revered for its confidence, passion, ambition, and ferocity. That same fighting spirit resides in Alice Wong.
Drawing on a collection of original essays, previously published work, conversations, graphics, photos, commissioned art by disabled and Asian American artists, and more, Alice uses her unique talent to share an impressionistic scrapbook of her life as an Asian American disabled activist, community organizer, media maker, and dreamer. From her love of food and pop culture to her unwavering commitment to dismantling systemic ableism, Alice shares her thoughts on creativity, access, power, care, the pandemic, mortality, and the future. As a self-described disabled oracle, Alice traces her origins, tells her story, and creates a space for disabled people to be in conversation with one another and the world. Filled with incisive wit, joy, and rage, Wong’s Year of the Tiger will galvanize readers with big cat energy.

Year of the Tiger at Penguin Randomhouse
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Hold My Bag

Growing up in the 70s and 80s, my childhood was chock full of microaggressions and microinvalidations. At school and at home. Most often related to my ethnicity, gender, intelligence, physical appearance, etc. Some classmates called me “Qaddafi’s daughter” for years, despite my family coming from a completely different country — Lebanon — a continent away from Libya. Often there were outright slurs too. Directed at me, but also bandied about so casually in day-to-day life and in pop culture. It’s appalling. I cringe when I attempt to rewatch many movies and television shows from my youth. We have come a long way but there is still so much work to do. We can and should strive to learn and grow. Which Lizzo has done recently and done well.

Following criticism that her new single, “Grrrls,” included the word spaz, Lizzo announced on Monday that she has released another version of the track with the offending lyric removed. “It’s been brought to my attention that there is a harmful word in my new song,” Lizzo wrote in a statement accompanying the rerelease. “Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language. As a fat black woman in America, I’ve had many hurtful words used against me so I overstand the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case, unintentionally).”

Lizzo Releases a New Version of ‘Grrrls’
Photo of Lizzo by Arturo Holmes at the Met Gala

Nothing About Us Without Us

When situations like this come up, as they often do, I share one of my favorite resources.

What is self-defined?

A modern dictionary about us.
We define our words, but they don’t define us.

Self-Defined seeks to provide more inclusive, holistic, and fluid definitions to reflect the diverse perspectives of the modern world.

With the foundation of vocabulary, we can begin to understand lived experiences of people different than us. Words can provide us with a sense of identity and allow us to find kinship through common experiences.

Ableism and Implicit Bias

Unfortunately, ableism continues to go unaddressed in too many diversity initiatives. Kelsey Lindell has some excellent suggestions on how to avoid situations like these in the future:

  1. Take personal responsibility for your own growth
  2. Educate your teams  
  3. Hire Disabled People (For more information: It’s time for a culture shift where disability inclusion is concerned)

Read Kelsey’s entire post for more.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good: Not directly related to accessibility, but positive news nonetheless — Google and Figma are bringing Figma to education chromebooks. Figma has some accessibility issues of its own, but it is an incredibly robust tool that can be used to design accessible, reusable components in design systems. When I teach the front-end website design class at Minneapolis College, I tell my students that Figma is like Google Docs for design. And have them use it to build design briefs, mood boards, and mockups as I talk about how Figma can be used to promote accessibility.

The Bad: I spend a significant amount of time listening to podcasts. Unfortunately, even many of my favorite podcasters have not invested the time to make their podcasts more accessible. It could be that they are unaware of the need to do so, or how to go about it. Recently, someone in my network shared a great resource intended to help podcasters.

Your podcast should be accessible. But what does that mean, exactly? Why should you care? What can you do to improve the accessibility?

Podcast Accessibility

The Ugly: I’m solidly GenX. When I was growing up, I would have been awed to know that one day I would have a powerful computer in my pocket — or hand — at all times. But I also recognize the inherent danger of smartphones. And now a study bears that out.

Apple CarPlay, Android Auto distract drivers more than pot, alcohol, says study: A new study says driver reaction times using this tech were worse than motorists with alcohol or cannabis in their system.

CNET Auto Tech
Screen in car showing Apple Carplay apps
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Accessibility Tech News

Historically, Memorial Day marks the kickoff to summer in the US. A big deal where I live, in Minnesota, where winters seem to linger later and later. After a chilly spring, we are particularly ready for outdoor summer fun this year. And now that can be more inclusive. Track chairs are coming to Minnesota state parks! Starting tomorrow, they will be available for reservation by phone.

Track chairs are off-road, electric-powered chairs that can be used on designated trails within the park. These chairs can help visitors explore areas of the state parks in new ways, often on trails that are not suitable for regular wheelchairs.

MN Department of Natural Resources

And that’s not only in my neck of the woods. Lincoln City, Oregon now has free beach wheelchairs and accessible paths:

They found a way to make their beaches accessible to individuals with limited mobility, using the simple, innovative concept of roll-out pathways and free beach wheelchairs. The idea has revolutionary implications.

That Oregon Life

In other positive accessibility news:

A beach in Lincoln City, Oregon with roll-out pathways with free beach wheelchairs
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Ableism in the Gun Violence Debate

Mass shootings have become commonplace in this country. Many of us have been impacted by them. My brother-in-law was murdered in a workplace shooting in Minneapolis in 2012. After each of these tragic events, we hear unhelpful platitudes like “thoughts and prayers” and “never again” statements from politicians. Along with more dangerous rhetoric, pinning the blame on mental health instead of our country’s pervasive gun culture and the powerful and effective lobbying efforts of the NRA. I’ve always been bothered by that. But disability advocate Kelsey Lindell broke it down in a way that resonated with me:

Whenever something horrific happens we hear politicians opposing gun laws spew lines that lobbyists wrote for them:

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
“We don’t have a gun problem we have a mental health problem”

When people who oppose gun control use statements that blame mental illness rather than our gun violence epidemic for horrific murders two things happen:

Mental health, or any neurodivergency, is further stigmatized and politicians push blame off of themselves and onto people who’s brain works differently than theirs.

Ableism works alongside other forms of systemic bias or oppression because it is a part of what co-creates the idea of an “ideal” expectation of body and mind: a non-disabled body and mind. These forms of systemic oppression combine with an implicit bias to label any body or mind form that is “other”than that “ideal” as “less than.” Politicians push the blame off of themselves and ONTO individuals who have mental illness. This increases the fear and stigma that people with mental illness deal with AND gets people to stop talking about gun control and start talking about mental illness instead.

So next time you hear someone saying we don’t have a gun problem, that this is a mental health issue: tell them two things.

1. Reality check: the USA isn’t the only country in the world where people are mentally ill. We ARE the only country that has 12 children die from gun violence and another 32 shot and injured EVERY DAY. Plus, studies show that mental illness contributes to only 4% of all violence, and the amount to gun violence is even smaller.

2. That’s ableist. We need gun control now.

Disability Advocate Kelsey Lindell
Graphic with the text reading "of all children ages 5 to 14 killed by guns in wealthy countries, 92% are US children."
From Vox’s article America’s unique, enduring gun problem, explained
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Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2022

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. I first took part in 2015, at an incredible event in Copenhagen. Siteimprove collaborated with the Danish Association of the Blind (DAB) to arrange Denmark’s largest tandem bike ride.  The company purchased 100 tandem bikes. There were over 350 people in attendance. During the event, Siteimprove employees, members of the Danish community, and blind or partially sighted members of DAB rode for 3.5 kilometers through Amager Strandpark. Afterward, the bikes were donated to DAB. Former colleagues still see the bikes around Copenhagen occasionally. That was a wonderful example of physical accessibility. Since then, my work has centered around digital accessibility and each year I have celebrated GAAD in some way. For GAAD 2022, I have a different employer. At iCIMS, we are hosting our 6th annual GAAD event for employees. We are celebrating the power of accessibility with the delightful Sam Evans of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) as our keynote speaker. I’ve created a “scavenger hunt” for my new colleagues — multiple-choice questions based on the accessibility topics in the materials we are presenting. In-person and online events are happening around the world today. It has been great seeing the movement and practice grow but there is still so much work to do.

Sighted and blind or partially sighted people riding tandem bikes together for GAAD 2015 in Copenhagen, Denmark
My former colleague, Keith Bundy, wearing a t-shirt with the words Ask Me About A11y for GAAD 2018, while being interviewed by a reporter
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Spring Twin Cities Arts and Disability Forum: Disability in Power

My pal Jes Reyes will be part of this upcoming virtual event:

The Metropolitan Regional Arts Council invites you to join the Arts & Disability Forum: Disability in Power on Tuesday, May 24th from 6-7pm. Join MRAC, Mai Thor, Jes Reyes, and Bryan Boyce to explore the imperative and impact of people with disabilities in positions of power.

This hour-long virtual event is appropriate for arts groups seeking to be more accessible, arts groups serving and/or made up of people with disabilities, and individual artists with disabilities who want to learn strategies from peers to embrace and uplift their inherent power.

MRAC Zoom Registration
metro regional arts council arts & disability forum: disability in power with three headshots of Jes Reyes, Mai Thor, and Bryan Boyce Tuesday, May 24, 6-7pm
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