October 4, 2016
It is a common assumption that everyone who has access to the internet has equal access to all of the information available on the world wide web. Unfortunately, this assumption leaves out a group of people who especially need that access: those with disabilities.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires federally-funded government entities to provide disabled individuals equal access to their programs, services, or activities. Section 508 specifically includes electronic and information technology. Government entities that make their websites accessible for disabled people are taking a great step toward being one hundred percent 508 compliant. For example, a blind person or a person with limited sight might use a screen reader that “sees” a webpage for them and reads it aloud or translates it into braille. An easy way to make a website accessible to someone accessing the internet with a screen reader (and thus 508 compliant) is to provide alternative text for images. If an image is an integral part of the webpage, alternative text will provide individuals with limited or no sight with an auditory interpretation of the message the image was meant to convey.
Although statistics on substance abuse and addiction among disabled populations are difficult to estimate, these afflictions can impact disabled people negatively in ways that non-disabled people suffering from substance abuse and addiction do not have to deal with. For disabled individuals, an addiction to drugs or alcohol can interfere with their medications, reduce their ability to follow self-care routines, and increase social isolation, just to list a few examples. It is imperative that disabled people have access to websites that do not impede their attempts to help themselves or their loved ones with their substance abuse or addiction, so we have compiled this list of resources for anyone who needs them.
We should note that after a scan on 508 Checker’s website, some of these sites still have opportunity to update their platforms to accommodate more disabilities. However, these sites have taken steps in the right direction by working to ensure that as many people as possible have access to this important – and potentially life-saving – information.
Resources for People Struggling with Alcohol Addiction
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is primarily for organizations seeking general and statistical information, but their Recovery Support page goes into detail on the dimensions of recovery. This is a good start for anyone struggling with addiction who simply wants to understand the general requirements of the road to recovery, but is not yet ready for specific behavioral change demands. They state on their accessibility page that all government websites, including theirs, should be 508 compliant and fully accessible.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s website, called Rethinking Drinking, is approachable and full of valuable information. You can guide yourself through questions such as, “What counts as a drink?” and “What’s your pattern?”. If you have decided that you want to make a change in your habits, you can head over to the next easy tab labeled “Thinking about a change?” and proceed through questions such as “Ready… or not?” and “To cut down or to quit…”. They also provide a self-help booklet, worksheets, a Q&A, and a plethora of resource links and phone numbers. On their accessibility page, they describe their accessibility efforts as an ongoing process. 508 Checker showed minimal issues with their website; however, accessibility may vary with special adaptive equipment used by disabled individuals.
AddictionsandRecovery.org is a public service website run by a private individual that provides evidence-based information on addiction. The alcohol information page describes the basics of all the anatomical reactions when you drink too much and the long term effects of alcohol abuse in addition to alcohol poisoning, binge drinking, treatment, and how to support someone who suffers from an alcohol addiction. It is a relatively simple website design with opportunities for accessibility concerning alternative text for the few images they have, but there are descriptive titles easily separating the menu and the sections on each page.
The Rochester Institute of Technology runs Substance and Alcohol Intervention Services for the Deaf, which provides information on alcohol addiction and a select few other substances. The informational resource is lacking compared to the other websites listed here, but they offer an extensive national directory listing treatment centers that offer services for deaf individuals.
Resources for People Struggling with Drug Addiction
Helpguide.org’s article on overcoming drug addiction does just what its title suggests and guides you through a series of introspective questions concerning your decision to make a change in your life. The article gently tells you that it is OK to feel uncertain about whether or not sobriety is something you can commit to and informs you of all of the factors that go into maintaining sobriety, including adjusting the way you deal with stress and how you think about yourself. It continues on with both internal and external behavioral adjustments for a holistic approach to treatment.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens is designed for teenagers (as well as parents and teachers of teenagers) and provides information on drugs and addiction. Although its intended audience is teens, the information can easily be generalized to anyone else. Their drug facts page breaks down each sub-group of substances, ranging from alcohol and tobacco to salvia and bath salts. On their information page, they directly state that their website is 508 compliant.
Another resource that was designed for teenagers but is generally applicable is Above the Influence. You can start out with their quiz called “How Are You Doing?” that is designed to see how easily you are influenced by your peers to make decisions. After, head over to their Drug Facts section where you can read detailed information on most major drugs, including their slang names, risks, and long-term effects.
Resources for People Who Fear a Loved One is Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence wants you to know that substance abuse affects everyone in the family. If you are feeling confused, helpless, or lost, this article provides validation for the issue you are facing and points you in the right direction. It encourages you to seek help and support for yourself as well as your loved one.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has already been cited in this article; however, their information page for people who fear their loved one has a substance abuse problem is a great resource. It starts off with an 11-question checklist that asks for yes or no answers, so you can clearly determine whether or not your loved one has a problematic relationship with substances. It answers any questions or concerns you may have about your loved one, such as fearing that your loved one will refuse to cooperate with treatment efforts, details on every aspect of treatment centers, fearing that your loved one will relapse, financial issues, and co-morbidity with depression.