Why do we need an accessibility label?

In my twenty-plus years in the accessibility field I have met many hard-working and creative individuals at educational institutions, non-profit agencies, assistive technology vendors, educational publishers, and many others, all dedicated to improving access to education for people with disabilities. While there have been advances, it seemed to me that innovations in accessibility and inclusive publishing were slow to reach those who need them the most - students. After years of observation and research, my conclusion was that three main factors were impeding progress:

  1. Institutional inertia in higher-education.

  2. Institutional inertia in the publishing field.

  3. Institutional inertia in the disability field.

The first two points probably don’t come as much of a surprise, but the third might. I came to believe that many non-profit and government agencies in the field had become too entrenched in the “authorized entity” and “trusted intermediary” model of providing services to students with disabilities, and were thus missing opportunities to move accessibility in to the mainstream.

When I conceived of the accessibility label I thought of it mainly as informational, like the Nutrition Facts label on food. As time went on, I realized it could play an even more important role - making accessibility more visible as a mainstream issue, and empowering students with disabilities as customers rather than charity cases. While the primary purpose of the label is to provide information, it’s overarching goal is to change the perception of accessibility from a special, technical issue to one of full inclusion in the marketplace - a requirement, not a feature.