Happy 25th, ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act!

Last updated: May 22, 2016

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So what is the ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act? (Read on, even if you are not in the United States.)

A great place to find an answer is in this article from the July 2015 Disability Connection Newsletter:
10 Things to Know about the Americans with Disabilities Act. The first item answers the “what is it” question.

That information came from a tweet by @Disability.Gov.

Any U.S.-based technical communicators reading this blog post really should know at least three of the items on this list.

  1. The answer to “what is it” in item 1
  2. Employers' obligations in item 4 – because they may affect you personally one day, and because you can help to ensure that your workplace supports the ADA
  3. YOUR rights under the ADA (self-explanatory?!) – see item 3

As @AccessibleJoe tweeted, the ADA was “response to appalling problem: widespread, systemic, inhumane discrimination against people with disabilities.” He linked to the Washington Post article by Robert L. Burgdorf Jr., co-author of the ADA. There really are some horror stories in the years before the ADA!

You can travel 25 years back in time and re-experience the signing of the ADA into law on July 26, 1990 by the President George H. W. Bush. This link goes to a page with multiple versions of the video with captions or audio description of his speech.

You can stay in the present and watch President Barack Obama's speech celebrating the 25th anniversary – it's captioned and transcribed. He honors some of the people who helped make the ADA happen. Take a 15-minute break to hear about some of the politicians and activists who made this huge change. May we be worthy enough to follow in their footsteps (or wheel tracks) in making accessibility a human right everywhere on the planet!

You see, the ADA might be for the U.S., but it has inspired legislation around the world.

The ADA has spurred numerous countries to enact legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability. These countries have looked to the ADA as an inspiration and a model in crafting their own legislative proposals.

Proof? A quick Google search gave me two resources:

Gostin's paper reveals the biggest impact the ADA has had on the world: the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD was modelled on the ADA! Read the full text of the convention.

In closing, I’d like to suggest that you follow @Disability.gov on Twitter to stay updated on disability-related news that might be relevant for your job – and for you. Their home is Disability.gov, the U.S. federal government website for “information on disability programs and services nationwide”. There’s also @ADANationalThe Americans With Disabilities Act National Network providing information, guidance, and training on the ADA.

Additional resources are on this website at Resources for Attention Deficit Disorder.

Ban the Bulb?

Last updated: March 5, 2015

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Discussions about banning the incandescent light bulb have existed for some time. The incandescent light bulb is already phased out in some countries. The concept is to save energy and the environment, which is very praiseworthy.

Why is this news on a blog about accessibility and technical communication? We technical communicators who are not blind do need light to do our work – reading and writing on paper or on screen. The quality of that light is important. We should not have to strain our eyes to see (possibly resulting in headaches and so on). It is important that the lighting in our work areas and homes provides the amount of light we require to do our work. Personally, I have been all for the energy-saving light bulbs. A few years ago, a lighting expert told me that with my aging near-sighted eyes (it's all downhill after age 40 :-)), I should only use the incandescent bulbs. The energy-saving light bulbs were not providing enough light for me, so my brain would compensate to "fill in the blanks", resulting in strain just to see. I don't recall her exact wording, but I discovered that she was right. I felt more relaxed – both physically and mentally – when I had an incandescent light bulb in the reading lamp. Reading, kitchen work, computer work – it was all more enjoyable.

Therefore, it was a surprise and shock to read at the end of 2008 that the European Union approved an EU-wide ban on the so-called traditional light bulb by 2012. In the middle of arguments about saving the environment, an environmentally oriented German consumer protection agency pronounced that the ban was not wise for various reasons, including health reasons. (You can read about this in an English-language article from Spiegel Online or find the October 2008 article from the site (in German only) of the German consumer protection agency.

The latest stir comes from the excellent Ouch! – the BBC's website "that reflects the lives and experiences of disabled people." In the latest blog entry, Ouch! asks "Are you incandescent with rage over lightbulbs?" Go read the article to learn more. Comment on their site or here on your faithful Accessible Techcomm blog! Let's shed more light on this topic!

Plain language bill in U.S. Senate is being stalled

Last updated: March 3, 2015

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You might be able to help.

Whitney Quesenbery brought us the latest news about the Plain Language bill that we wrote about back in April this year.

It is stuck in the Senate. Senator Bennett (R. Utah) has blocked the bill on the grounds that it would be a problem for the Federal Election Commission and the Election Assistance Commission.

Whitney has two simple answers to their objections:

  1. The law does not apply to regulations
  2. Are they really suggesting that information about elections should be hard to understand

If you are in the United States, you can help by writing or calling your Senator's office and Senator Bennett's office to express your opinion.

Here's additional information from the International Law Prof Blog about how to write your representative on this matter:
Plain Language in Government Communication