Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce organized a Zoom meeting with state, county and local officials to outline the difficulties people with disabilities face in accessing Internet information about the COVID19 pandemic — and she is leading by example by making her own website more accessible.
The simple website upgrade launched by the Assemblywoman on Wednesday allows people with varied abilities to view and/or navigate her website, AswDeCroceNJ26.com, much more easily while using screen readers and other assistive technology devices created for people with disabilities to access the Internet. The Assemblywoman noted that while the State of New Jersey has made advances in rendering some government websites more accessible, the sites of many other agencies, officials and local governments remain difficult to access for people with disabilities.
“Most elected leaders are trying to help guide people through the complex requirements of the pandemic shutdown by posting alerts to their websites. But for people with disabilities, navigating the webpages can be almost impossible unless the sites include the proper technology to interface with screen readers and other assistive devices. The update on my site made it far more friendly to people with disabilities,” said DeCroce.
The Assemblywoman upgraded her website through User1st, a Washington, D.C. company developing and using innovative technologies to make the Internet accessible for persons with varied and changing abilities. John Incantalupo, her digital consultant and a partner at the digital strategy firm DIGITALBRILLIANT LLC, noted the change did not require the Assemblywoman to relinquish control of the website and, aside from an “accessibility” button in the top left corner of the webpage, there was no change to the appearance of the website for other visitors.
“This is a dilemma not widely known by the general public, and yet there are simple technological solutions available that can enhance website access for people with disabilities without changing the look or operation of a website. It only helps people with disabilities, and I seriously urge my elected colleagues on the local, county and state levels of government to join me by employing these upgrades,” said Assemblywoman DeCroce.
The Zoom meeting also was joined by Mike Marotta of Disability Rights New Jersey, a RESNA Certified Assistive Technology Professional and Director at Richard West Assistive Technology Advocacy Center at DRNJ. The center serves as New Jersey’s federally funded assistive technology project through a subcontract with New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development, assisting people in overcoming barriers in the system and making assistive technology more accessible to individuals with disabilities.
“As the world becomes more digital, we must ensure people with disabilities are provided equal access to electronic information in order to be fully included members of our community,” said Marotta.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 4, or roughly 61 million Americans, “have a disability that impacts major life activities.” It reflects the situation in New Jersey, where 24.6 percent of the adult population have some form of disability. Data released by the Kessler Foundation also suggested that the disability community was disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, with the number of employed people with disabilities having decreased by nearly one million workers from March to April of this year.
People with disabilities also make up 8 million of the small business owners throughout the nation who have had to overcome different state lockdown orders that are forcing many to go out of business.