Is Accessibility Finally Becoming Mainstream?

I've been working in the accessibility field for 10 years now. It's amazing and gratifying to get to do something every day that you still feel passionate about after that length of time.

It's been at least five years since I heard someone say, "Blind people can use computers?". You won't catch me arguing that we've resolved most of the accessibility gaps that keep people with disabilities from fully participating in the workplace and society, but I do feel like we've reached the tipping point in the last couple of years.

And here's why. One of my many roles in my accessibility/social networking/web management job is as a content curator. (See this great article from EContent Magazine for more information.) For every piece of content I share on one of my IBM or personal social channels, I probably see 60 or 70. And I've just plucked a few examples as proof points:
Photo of Paralympian Oscar Pistorius running.
Oscar Pistorius is amazing.

Here are two mainstream trends I've seen in the last week that I think are tipping point sign posts, especially since they are targeted at children.
Photo of American Girl doll wearing a hearing aid.
American Girl doll with a hearing aid
  • If you have little girls or know any little girls, then you probably are familiar with the American Girl dolls. They are diverse and inclusive — there are a multitude of skin, hair and eye color combinations available so that a girl can get a doll that looks just like her. In this article from ABC News, American Girl Dolls Embrace Differences and Disabilities, we learn that dolls can now have a miniature service dog in harness, a hearing aid or an allergy-free lunch kit, in addition to glasses, braces, crutches, a wheel chair, or no hair to represent those who have lost hair to cancer. As the author of this article states, "... it’s hard not to cheer for a doll company that goes out of its way to represent girls from all walks of life and every circumstance." Exactly.
Hercules and Brandeis
  •  Canine Companions for Independence, a wonderful organization that provides highly trained assistance dogs to people with disabilities, published an article about Hercules, a Canine Companions dog, who makes an appearance in Episode 43 of Sesame Street. Hercules helps new Muppet character Brandeis find his calling as an assistance dog. I haven't seen the episode, but the video clip is very cute.
So there you have it. When a mainstream toy manufacturer and a children's educational television program encourage children to see and accept people with disabilities as people like them, who have stories and feelings and needs, we are on the right path. Finally.