At Knowbility, Sharron Rush Leads the Fight for Equal Technology Access

By Hugh Forrest: For Entire Post, Go Here…

Sharron Rush is the award-winning co-founder and Executive Director of the Austin-based nonprofit advocacy, consulting, and training company Knowbility.

Since 1998, Sharron has been a leader in raising awareness and skills around the issue of access to technology for people with disabilities. Her work at Knowbility includes policy review, performance analysis, technical consultation, and training development for private and public companies, government agencies, and schools.

In the US, approximately how many technology users face some kind of accessibility challenge?

It’s hard to say about “technology users.” Isn’t that everyone these days? Nearly 20% of the population is documented as having a disability but many people who are elderly and those with temporarily disabling conditions aren’t in that number. Also, not all disabilities impact technology use. A wheelchair user, for example may have no problem at all with “inaccessible” web sites. So when you include injuries, aging and temporary disabilities, 20% seems about right. That means more than 55 million in the US and 1 billion people globally.

Will this number expand or contract in the years ahead?

It is likely to expand as disability is often acquired over time. As people live longer, they are more likely to lose capacity to see and hear or to receive injuries that cause disability.

The summer of 2020 brought a very powerful emphasis on all things diversity, equity and inclusion. Should the concept of accessibility also be part of this urgent DEI discussion?

Most diversity and inclusion initiatives have not extended the concept to include people with disabilities. There is a foundational concept of “nothing about us without us” among people with disabilities, meaning of course that those voices must be heard as institutions plan for inclusion. Disabled people may need technology accommodations, including captions, audio description, and assistive technologies that must be budgeted for. As you plan your remote working strategies, have you validated the accessibility of your communication and collaboration tools?

And it goes both ways. The tech community, including accessibility advocacy, is overwhelmingly white and male.

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