Is the Emperor of the Inclusive Metaverse Wearing Any Clothes?
We have been on the road to digital inclusion for more than 25 years. WCAG 1.0 was officially adopted in 1999 after years of consideration and collaboration among researchers, advocates, and people with disabilities with the highest hopes and best intentions. And yet, the 2023 report on the accessibility of the top 1,000,000 home pages shows that more than 90% of websites do not meet even minimum accessibility standards. Do we expect to meet the design challenges of the metaverse with the same approach? What paradigm shift is needed to significantly move the needle on existing and future tech? Not promising answers but hoping for clear eyed consideration and understanding that deep, systemic change is needed.
Sharron Rush is the award winning co-founder and Executive Director of Knowbility, a nonprofit advocacy, consulting, and training company focused on digital inclusion. Since 1998, Sharron has pioneered community engagement techniques to help raise awareness and improve skills to improve digital equity – access to technology for disabled people. Her technical expertise, understanding of the barriers faced by people with disabilities, and strong communication skills have contributed to her leadership position in the field. In 2007, she became an Invited Expert at the W3C, contributing to the development and application of global accessibility standards for their Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). In 2014, she became co-chair of the WAI Education and Outreach Working Group. Most recently, she was awarded the AARP Purpose Prize for her work to include people with disabilities in the opportunities afforded by digital technologies.