Listen to disabled people’s stories – IDPD 2021

Listen to disabled people year round, not just on International Day of Persons with Disabilities.



Hi, I’m Nic Steenhout. And you’re listening to the accessibility rules soundbite, a series of short podcasts where disabled people explain their impairments and what barriers they encounter on the web.

Today’s episode is a bit different – I’m not talking to a disabled web user. I’m talking about the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

I have mixed feelings about any international day of celebration or acknowledgement of any specific topic. It’s a bit as if some people think “ok, we’ve done this topic and we can forget it until next year”. What should be the start of awareness building ends up being more like a quickly discharged duty.

My message on this International Day of Persons with Disabilities is simple:

Listen to disabled people. Accept that we are the expert at how our impairments impact our interactions on the web. Not all disabled folks are technical experts on web issues. They may not know how to fix a barrier on the web. But they certainly can tell you what’s a barrier and why it’s a barrier for them.

Before the corona virus pandemic hit the world so hard, disabled folks had been asking for accommodations, and often refused those on the basis that they were too difficult to implement. Or too expensive to make happen. Then, almost overnight, a lot of the things disabled folks wanted happened, including remote work instead of in-office work, and video calls instead of in-person meetings. And a lot of people experienced an improvement in their quality of life, not just disabled folks.

So it wasn’t too hard. It wasn’t too expensive. It was a question of attitude. It was a question of willingness to listen to disabled folks.

Don’t dismiss our message. Listen to us. Listen to us on more than one or two days a year.

This series of podcasts is here to provide you with information about accessibility barriers disabled people experience on the web. In their own words. I hope you benefit from this resource. I hope you listen to what my guests have to say. I hope you spread the word.

By all means, let’s celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. But keep on listening to disabled folks’ stories and histories year round. Because it’s worse to be celebrated for one day and then put back in the cupboard for a year.