Providing Vulnerable Populations with Digital Accessibility
During the COVID-19 Pandemic
We find ourselves living in an unprecedented time for our communities and our economy due to the coronavirus pandemic. The tremendous impact of COVID-19 has thrust all of us into an unanticipated digital transformation of online dependency for information, goods, and services. However, navigating the digital environment can be much more difficult for persons with disabilities.
During this time of social distancing and self-quarantine, vulnerable populations (including those with disabilities) will need additional access to services to get through this pandemic. Digital accessibility can help provide necessary services to customers with disabilities who may need the use of assistive technologies to navigate the Internet.
Digital accessibility is the ability of a website, mobile application or electronic document to be easily navigated and understood by all users with disabilities, including those who have visual, auditory, motor or cognitive disabilities.
Persons with disabilities cross all demographic groups and ages. With 1 in 5 people in the U.S. having a disability, it is likely that a friend, colleague, or even someone in your family has a disability. All too often when we think of persons with disabilities, we only think of fully disabled people. We tend to forget about the aging population, a veteran with varied mobility or a cognitive disorder, or someone with a degenerative eye disease. In addition, many have additional health complications which can impact their immune systems. Each of these people are trying to gain the same access to coronavirus information, emergency services, education materials, and online shopping as everyone else.
Unfortunately, many websites aren’t accessible, which also means a legal battle could be just around the corner. Lawsuits have already been filed citing the coronavirus forcing patrons online only to find websites that are not accessible to persons with visual or auditory impairments. For some of these people, the internet right now is their only public accommodation.
How is User1st Supporting Our Communities & Businesses?
User1st was founded on the principles of helping those in need and we are working to support our communities in any way we can.
Most recently, User1st answered the call from Invisible Hands Deliver. Invisible Hands is a New York City (NYC), community-based group of grassroots organizers and committed volunteers who safely deliver groceries, medicine, and other necessities free of charge to the most vulnerable members of our community facing the COVID-19 pandemic. User1st has donated our software and services to Invisible Hands to ensure persons with disabilities in NYC have access to this incredible resource. Invisible Hands will expand outside of the NYC area very soon and you can sign up to volunteer on their site.
Soon Manhattan’s Javits Center will be transformed into a FEMA emergency hospital to help combat the coronavirus. User1st is proud to provide digital accessibility services to the Javits Center website so that our technology will assist persons with disabilities find emergency care if they need.
Online education has become a necessity and many public-school systems in the U.S. are trying to provide online services to students with disabilities as quickly and as best they can. Unfortunately, nobody anticipated this all-online atmosphere and public schools were caught off guard and many don’t know how to take the first steps toward online accessibility. So User1st is reaching out to several school groups and districts to advise and assist our public schools with the new experience of online education as much as possible.
Many on the User1st team are also reaching out in our local communities to offer our software and services to food banks, hospitals (COVID-19 pages), and other non-profit services.
While many businesses have had to shut their brick and mortar storefronts, they have done their best to keep their online doors open. Today, many more retailers are offering online orders and curbside pickup. User1st wants to support businesses in their abilities to serve all customers, and by extension support our nation’s economy. Therefore, we are offering significant discounts for many of our services to help keep digital doors open to all patrons and support our nation’s economy.
Lastly, all User1st employees are working from home to help protect our neighbors by reducing exposure to and the spread of the coronavirus. We are thankful to be a fully functioning technology company that continues to provide our customers and communities full accessibility service from the safety of our homes.
How can each of us help?
If you are healthy and able to volunteer, visit Invisible Hands Deliver and sign up to help others in your neighborhood. You can also share their website with your local community for people who may need their assistance. You can also donate canned goods or other sealed food items to local food banks.
If you are in a financial position to do so, purchase a to-go or delivery meal from your favorite local restaurant. Purchase a household item online from a local store and take advantage of their curbside pick-up option. Order clothes from your favorite store and have them delivered to your home. Small contributions like this will help keep businesses going and support our economy.
If your company needs digital accessibility to better serve persons with disabilities, contact User1st. We are here to help the best way we can.
Over the coming weeks, User1st will feature online accessibility information as it pertains to various contributions to our society – business, finance, education, healthcare, retail, just to name some specific areas. We hope that you will read and share this information to help support online access for persons with disabilities.
Together, we can provide online services to persons with disabilities, serve our communities, and support our economy through this crisis.