Social Context & Historical Perspective

Mick McQuaid and Madison Russell


Topics to be covered

  • identity and cultural norms
  • regulatory requirements and standards

identity and cultural norms

A diagram of the medical model of disability

A diagram of the social model of disability

a list of offensive terminology for disabled people

Establishment of Regulatory Requirements and Norms

A still from The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

A poster advocating disabled hiring from 1951

An early wheelchair basketball game

Accessibility as a civil right

A banner featuring a quote from Martin Luther King at a Section 504 protest

A sit-in by wheelchair users in an official’s office

Activist Judy Heumann speaking

Explanation of Section 504

Protesters crawling up the US Capitol steps

Protesters, including Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins, crawling up the US Capitol steps


(The Americans with Disabilities Act) History and Basic Rules

ADA logo

ADA Explanation


WCAG / W3C logo


Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2 is developed through the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) process in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world, with a goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.

The WCAG documents explain how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. Web “content” generally refers to the information in a web page or web application, including:

  • information such as text, images, and sounds
  • or markup that defines structure, presentation, etc.

Who WCAG is for

What is in WCAG

The WCAG standards have 12–13 guidelines. The guidelines are organized under 4 principles:

  • perceivable,
  • operable,
  • understandable, and
  • robust.

For each guideline, there are testable success criteria. The success criteria are at three levels: A, AA, and AAA.

The success criteria are what determine “conformance” to WCAG. That is, in order to meet WCAG, the content needs to meet the success criteria. Details are in the Conformance section of WCAG.

Who is in charge of WCAG

The WCAG technical documents are developed by the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AG WG) (formerly the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group), which is part of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

WAI updates Techniques for WCAG 2 and Understanding WCAG 2 periodically. We welcome comments and submission of new techniques.

Opportunities for contributing to WCAG and other WAI work are introduced in Participating in WAI.

Can you give an example?


  • Complexity; time required to deliver results
  • 38 guidelines to meet AA standard
  • difficult to sue over it (but Winn-Dixie was successfully sued)
  • standard keeps changing—requires continuing education
  • practical difficulties, e.g., can’t easily provide captions in Hebrew
  • companies make exaggerated claims that they can easily automate the process for you

A Section 508 logo

Section 508 features

Section 508 roadmap for FEMA

Section 508 GSA mission

President Obama signs the CVAA, with Stevie Wonder and others standing behind him

EqualWeb’s CVAA compliance badge

CVAA Titles

The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) updates federal communications law to increase the access of persons with disabilities to modern communications.

It has two Titles:

  • Title 1, covering communication access, increases the scope of communications services that must be made accessible to users with disabilities
  • Title 2, covering video programming, requires that video programming, services, and equipment, be made accessible to users with disabilities

It is framed as a technical law, as opposed to earlier acts that were framed as civil rights law. Hence, it tries to future-proof itself against new technologies.

Can you give an example?

From Section 102.(b):

Section 710(c) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 610(c)) is amended by adding at the end the following: ‘‘A telephone or other customer premises equipment that is compliant with relevant technical standards developed through a public participation process and in consultation with interested consumer stakeholders (designated by the Commission for the purposes of this section) will be considered hearing aid compatible for purposes of this section, until such time as the Commission may determine otherwise. The Commission shall consult with the public, including people with hearing loss, in establishing or approving such technical standards. The Commission may delegate this authority to an employee pursuant to section 5(c). The Commission shall remain the final arbiter as to whether the standards meet the requirements of this section.’’.

Digital ADA lawsuit graphic

UN CRPD logo

What is UNCRPD?

The UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) is an international human rights treaty that reaffirms that all persons with disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Its articles clarify that all disabled persons have the right to participate in civil, political, economic, social and cultural life of the community just as anyone else.

The Convention clearly stipulates what public and private authorities must do to ensure and promote the full enjoyment of these rights by all disabled people.

Not all frameworks are in law. For example, Dogucu, Johnson, and Ott (2021) is a voluntary framework for accessibility in data science.



Dogucu, Mine, Alicia A. Johnson, and Miles Ott. 2021. “Framework for Accessible and Inclusive Teaching Materials for Statistics and Data Science Courses.”


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