Website blackouts provide some perspective of access

Today much is being said about the decision made by mega sites such as Wikipedia, Reddit, WordPress, and Boing Boing to go dark for one day, essentially shutting down their web services; or English versions of their web services. This was a way for their founders to protest two pieces of pending US legislation; the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House. Through the blackout they hope to engage the nation in a broad-based awareness campaign and timely discussion regarding the pending legislation they believe will limit a “free and open internet”

Many are reeling today from the shock of not having immediate access to some of their favorite websites; sites that, for many, are visited on a daily basis. Instead they have to wait for this access, if only for a day. The delay in on-demand access may provide accessibility advocates with an opportunity to show typical users the frustrations that come with inaccessibility. In doing so typical users may connect a personal experience with the struggle to gain access; it is often important in advocacy efforts to help others perceive issues from a personal standpoint.

As we are well aware, it can be typical for users with disabilities to have to wait to obtain access to web content. It is also common that typical users do not understand how irritating this experience can be. Today’s blackout may provide a similar enough experience that those typical users can gain an understanding of the frustrations of inaccessibility. In fact, frustration and irritation are what the organizers of the blackout are counting on.

If the anticipated reverberations of this event are longstanding we should be able to use its impact for some time to come. It should help us provide others with an understanding of the frustration of encountering inaccessible content and the importance of accessibility for all.

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