Net Neutrality has recently been a popular topic of conversation within the disability community.
But what is it, and what does it mean for the disability community?
By definition, net neutrality, or open Internet, is a principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) should give companies/individuals access to all legal content and applications on an equal basis, without discriminating for or against various sources. What that means is that internet services providers should transmit data equally to their consumers, without utilizing discriminatory practices. As it stands, everyone gets the same baseline services, but “premium” services are available-meaning it costs more.
What does that mean to individuals who have disabilities?
Simply explained, for many who have disabilities, the internet and social media are essential for information, employment and social participation. This is because people with disabilities often encounter social and or/geographical barriers, which place additional limitations on participation and engagement.
In our current digital society, where thousands of individuals work remotely, attend online classes or otherwise engage in participatory activities, the impact can be devastating. The whole idea of a remote workforce model or offering online education for example, was to remove barriers, not create new ones!
Think about how you use the internet everyday – all the information that is at your fingertips.
Now imagine only having access to a fraction of that. This is the current situation that many people with auditory, visual or other impairments experience. It is still very common to run across information such as videos without captions, audio without text transcripts, images without alt text, or documents and websites that don’t work with one’s assistive technology. Imagine not being able to apply for jobs or access services through online portals because of your disability or competing for educational opportunities when colleges refuse to take accessibility seriously.
An excellent way to avoid discrimination and promote equality is to create and execute an accessibility plan and stick with it!