Building a Convention that’s Accessible For All
By Ted Jackson, Director of Accessibility and Disability Engagement
This week, many people around the world are in their third month of relying on the internet and digital platforms to maintain their daily lives. This theme of electronic reliance is not lost on people with disabilities, many of whom were already using these tools to access school, work, shopping, health care, and socialization—and to experience life moments. These unprecedented times have brought a renewed appreciation for making sure distance-bridging communication is both reliable and accessible.
This week, we also recognize the 11th annual Global Accessibility Awareness DAY (GAAD) on May 21, 2020. Founded in 2009, GAAD brings awareness to the advancements in technology that are breaking communication access barriers for disabled persons so they can participate in the global space with equity.
The Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) is taking GAAD’s call-to-action seriously by preparing for a convention that allows delegates and voters to engage and connect in diverse ways. In fact, we made this commitment well before the age of COVID-19—which has taught even non-disabled persons new lessons in breaking barriers to communication access.
We know that our convention will be the celebratory start of the race to election day for many Americans. We also know that 25 percent of all eligible voters are disabled, that they live in one half of all voting households, and that they will be watching our convention to evaluate the Democratic platform through our actions and examples of inclusion.
That’s why we started working early to develop accessible platforms for anyone to engage with and watch the convention. We are committed to building a trustworthy relationship with our volunteers, delegates, partners, stakeholders, and viewers with disabilities based on equitable participation without barriers.
Our team started this process by building a website with the goal of adhering to some of the most up-to-date accessibility standards used by the web design community. We prioritized Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 compliance standards to ensure that our website content lives up to these four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.
We worked with Wide Eye Creative, a digital creative agency, to develop the website—a dynamic and user-friendly platform that will make it easier than ever before for people to engage with the convention. It was also important to us that the disability community was engaged in this process. So, we hired Beyond Vision, a Milwaukee-based firm and employer for people who are blind, to conduct thorough and on-going user testing of the website.
We are proud to announce that Beyond Vision has awarded the Democratic National Convention website the WCAG 2.1 Level AA badge of approval.
Additionally, we worked closely with our partners at the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee to launch online portals for volunteers, vendors, and venues that not only passed accessibility testing, but include features to identify disability-owned businesses and an enhanced accommodation request for volunteers.
Our commitment to electronic communication access in 2020 is evident in our enhanced accessibility plan. We have worked to provide accessible communications and meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) since it was signed into law three decades ago. And this year—we upped our game.
We opened up a wider bidding for contracts to provide Sign Language Interpretation and CART Live Captions and Audio Description, increasing access to these opportunities for small and disability-owned businesses. We are also making sure that our communication accommodations will stream live via our website’s accessibility page. This will allow anyone viewing or participating to access these streamed accommodations.
The 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the passing and signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We recognize that part of that celebration is living up to the best ideals of the ADA and setting an example for others to follow. We hope that you will join us in this effort.
Take some time today to learn more about Global Accessibility Awareness Day and the need for greater accessibility across digital platforms. And keep checking out our website for more convention updates at DemConvention.com