Report from Net Inclusion 2024

(Note: For purposes of this article and in line with NDIA practice, “inclusion” comprises all human-diversity categories, not just those related to disability and accessibility.)

5 professionals standing and smiling for camera at Net Inclusion Conference

Billed as “The Nation’s Premiere Digital Inclusion Conference and Community,” the annual Net Inclusion event sponsored by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) took place February 13–15 in Philadelphia. Our Program Manager, Amy Fuchs, moderated the Tuesday-morning panel “Accessibility Toolbox for Digital Skills Training,” which ranked among the most popular breakout sessions. (“They turned at least 25 people away at the door” after standing room was filled, noted Amy’s fellow BridgingApps delegate, Digital Navigator Walter Prescher.)  

What’s in the Accessibility Toolbox?

What was that crowd of attendees hoping to learn? It’s summed up in the “Accessibility Toolbox” introduction: “There is a disparity in access to technology, including broadband service, devices, and digital skills training, concerning people with disabilities. Through this panel, we hope to help all providers, regardless of their knowledge of disabilities, feel more comfortable working with ALL people.”

Some key points from the session:

  • To use digital technology effectively, many more people need disability accommodations than is commonly realized. Often, the primary obstacle is that people are reluctant to request accommodations, or don’t know how or whom to ask. Service providers can help by implementing clearly defined procedures—and by taking the initiative to ask questions themselves.
  • Every digital provider should have at least one person serving as “point of contact,” someone familiar with various accessibility issues and solutions. Every customer-service representative needs to know how to consult this person.
  • Where language barriers or digital literacy are concerns, providers need a variety of communications tools available (glossaries, visual icons, etc.).
  • Effective outreach plans recognize which forms of outreach work best for which demographics. (For example, many immigrant communities rely on public bulletin boards and word of mouth.)
  • Advocacy is key to progress. No one should hesitate to speak up after identifying a need.
  • The goal is to empower consumers, not make decisions for them.
  • Some recommended resources:
    • The AT3 directory of state assistive-technology programs
    • Linguava for health-service interpretation services in over 230 languages, including American Sign Language (ASL)
    • The Morphic app for organizing any computer’s accessibility features

Another noteworthy—and much-appreciated—aspect of “Toolbox” was the use of Caption Companion, a tablet device borrowed by BridgingApps for the purpose of making the session itself more accessible. (Coming soon on this blog: a post on how conference speakers can use portable technology such as Caption Companion to avoid having to rely on venue-provided captioning, which may be unfamiliar or nonexistent.)

I love digital equity banner

Other Net Inclusion Highlights

The complete 3-day conference included:

A complete list of events is on the Net Inclusion 2024 website. Items marked “LIVESTREAMED” are included in the conference recordings saved to YouTube.

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