1.3 The ethical and legal imperative for accessibility
The first factor to consider is ethics. Disabled people should not be excluded from using any product, device or service if it is at all possible to avoid this: disabled people have the same rights as non-disabled people to access goods and services. Teachers generally try to write material that reflects the experiences of people from diverse backgrounds, to make a course inclusive and ‘pedagogically accessible’. This good practice should be extended to include reflecting the experiences of disabled people and ensuring that there are no barriers to their participation in the course.
Supporting the ethical factor is legal obligation. In many countries it is unlawful to discriminate against disabled people as employees, as students, and as consumers of goods and services. Legislation requires employers, education establishments, and providers of goods and services to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to avoid discriminating against disabled people.
In practice this means that, where ‘reasonable’ to do so, websites, software, buildings and other entities involved in employment, education or other services need to be made accessible. Many countries have extended this to require that the needs of disabled people should be anticipated – thus providing access beforehand, not waiting until a disabled person asks for it. This means that a provider of a service cannot justify not making an adjustment by saying that they do not have any disabled customers; they need to anticipate that they may have disabled customers in the future.