Sometimes, when organizations need to make hard copies of things, they try to save paper by making the print tiny. This is an accessibility problem.
- Printing copies of a song you want to teach in a small font so that you can get four copies out of a single piece of paper
- Reducing the size of a flier so you can fit four on a page
- Passing out sheets of instructions in very small print
This does save paper. It also excludes a lot of people. Not everyone can read 8 point text. Most people above a certain age can’t read that, and many younger people can’t either. Those people matter more than a few sheets of paper.
If it’s important enough to make copies, it’s important to make copies that everyone who needs the information can read.
If you must make the copies small, make a few large copies available for people who need them.
People don’t know that you will meet their access needs unless you tell them you will. Many people won’t, and people with disabilities can’t read your mind to figure out your intentions.
It goes a long way towards easing stress for everyone if you talk about access explicitly, rather than assuming it goes without saying that you will do the right thing.
For instance, if your store sign says “no dogs allowed” it should also say something like “except service dogs” (don’t say guide dogs specifically, because there are a lot of reasons other than blindness that some people have service animals)
- This sends the message that you know service dogs exist
- And that you’re not going to kick them out of the store for having a service dog
- This does not go without saying; people with service dogs get illegally kicked out of stores all the time
Similarly, if you ban laptops/electronics, it’s important to say “except when they are needed by students with disabilities.” (and not to demand proof of diagnosis).
If you’re organizing a retreat and there is a rule against outside food, it’s important to either make an exception for people with dietary needs, or else work with people to provide them food they can eat. And to make it explicit that you will do this, because it very much does not go without saying.
If you’re advertising an event and it’s in an accessible venue (which it should be), put that information on the fliers (and make sure it’s true). That doesn’t go without saying. Many organizations whose values suggest that they should care about accessibility routinely hold events in completely inaccessible venues. No one will know that you’re doing it the right way unless you tell them.
There are any number of other examples.
Short version: Keep in mind that people with disabilities can’t read your mind, and make it explicit that you will meet access needs, especially if your statements or rules suggest that you won’t.
If you’re making color-coded signs, also write the colors on the signs.
For instance, if your train has a red line, write “red line” on red line signs.
This makes the color-coded things useable by colorblind people.
A lot of places have a few designated accessible seats, for instance:
- Movie theaters will often have some seats next to wheelchair seating areas.
- Bathrooms often have one accessible stall and several more inaccessible stalls
- Busses usually have designated seating near the front for folks with disabilities
If you don’t need the accessibility features of the designated seats, it’s important not to sit in them.
Because even if you’re willing to move, people don’t know that. A lot of people who sit in those seats are not willing to move, and become belligerent when people ask them to, particularly if they are not using mobility equipment. People who need the seats have no way of knowing how you will react. By sitting there, you are putting people in the position of having to decide whether risking asking you to move is more dangerous than risking going without the seat.
Do not do this to people.
Something I’ve noticed:
There are a lot of ramps, seating areas, lifts, and other such things that aren’t available to wheelchair users because they are constantly full of people pushing children in strollers.
Sometimes, this is because people are astonishingly inconsiderate, but often it’s the result of terrible design.
People assume that accessibility features are only useful for chair users. Then they design them to only have enough capacity for the (small) number of chair users they expect to be there. Then, everyone with a stroller uses them, and the building remains almost as inaccessible to wheelchair users as it was before.
When you are creating an accessibility feature, do not fall into this trap! Design it to have the capacity for all of the things it will be used for.
Some concrete examples:
- If your building has multiple high-traffic entrances, it needs to have multiple ramps
- Elevators need to have enough capacity to accommodate the number of kids in strollers, chair users, and people with luggage who will come through on a regular basis.
- Family restrooms should be accessible. So should some of the stalls in the regular men’s/women’s/unisex bathrooms.
Just, generally speaking, keep in mind that in order to make an access feature usable, there has to either be enough to go around, or enforcement preventing unauthorized use. Unless you want to chase mothers and infants away from your ramp, make it big enough to accommodate traffic from both wheelchair users and strollers.