Statement on APA accessibility

A group of philosophers with disabilities (all members of the APA’s committee for inclusiveness in the profession) have written a statement regarding APA accessibility.

I encourage everyone to read the whole statement, but I particularly want to highlight this section:

The APA’s practice with regard to members with disabilities respects each individual seeking accommodation as the most knowledgeable source to identify effective solutions for that person’s circumstance. We appreciate the APA’s personalized interactive process for providing reasonable accommodation, which has served not only us but many other philosophers with disabilities well. For those readers unfamiliar with reasonable accommodation procedure, the APA’s individualized interactive process is the gold standard approach the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) endorsed after nationwide consultation with large numbers of people with various disabilities and with organizations that represent them.

We therefore are disconcerted to observe people signing on to a petition that makes claims about APA procedures that are untrue and assertions about people with disabilities suffering discrimination by the APA that do not accord with our experience. They may not be aware that harm can be occasioned by them doing so.

As a philosopher with a disability, this statement definitely resonates with my own experience of the APA, which has always very positive. Big thanks to the authors of this statement (Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, Anita Silvers, and Adam Cureton) and to the APA for their continued efforts towards inclusiveness!

8 thoughts on “Statement on APA accessibility

  1. The PDF circulating is inaccessible to screen readers. That might seem like a minor quibble. But it is not a minor quibble. I hope the authors can work to correct that so that their message truly can get out. But I also hope they consider more than just a defence — why don’t they work to do some simple things, like making the APA website more accessible? The PDF that is circulating doesn’t actually detail any plans to change anything. That doesn’t feel productive. Why not choose one or two things, to begin with, that can be changed to create more inclusivity and accessibility? I think there must be a way to move this discussion towards positive change.

  2. The pdf has been made in the new, accessibility-friendly version of acrobat and should be accessible to most screen readers ( They have put up a .doc version as well in case this is preferable for some users.

    No doubt there may still be some accessibility issues, but perhaps this simply highlights the importances of responding to accessibility needs on an individual basis, as they are presented. Nothing is ever going to be perfectly accessible for everyone.

    As for the question ‘why don’t they work to do some simple things?’ I take it that the answer – as evidenced in the statement – is that they are and have been working (very hard!) to do *many* things, some simple, some less so. It’s not perfect. It may never be perfect. But there are dedicated, disability-aware people putting a lot of effort into it – effort we should commend them for, instead of picking on what they haven’t gotten exactly right.

  3. Hmmm. There wasn’t even a document title on the PDF, no running headers, no bookmarks. Those are the basics of PDF accessibility. I don’t think I was “picking on what they haven’t gotten exactly right” but I am sorry if that was the impression you got. I do appreciate the responsiveness here, and commend the group for the hard work they do. But if we stopped there that would have effectively shut this conversation down, and there would be no further responsiveness or change. That doesn’t seem like a really good outcome and it seems in fact like the opposite of inclusiveness, looking a lot more like a closing of the ranks.

  4. I was under the impression that the basics of pdf accessibility had to do with the pdf’s infrastructure – whether it’s ‘tagged’ in the right way ( I can’t tell just by looking at it whether this pdf has been tagged appropriately, so I’ve written to the authors to find out.

    I agree with your wider point – there definitely can’t be an end to responsiveness and change – and I’m sure the authors of this statement would agree as well. But we’re in a situation where the accessibility efforts of the APA have been very publicly attacked, so it makes sense to emphasize (if only just for a little while) what the APA is doing *right*.

  5. Amy Ferrer replies that the original pdf was missing some the components needed for full (or near enough) accessibility, but that it’s now been updated to improve this. The document passes Acrobat’s accessibility check. Word and html versions have also been provided.

  6. Can you explain the importance of a document title, running headers, or bookmarks for accessibility? Sorry, I’m ignorant about these things, but I would like to know.

  7. Disclosure: I’m definitely *not* an expert when it comes to document accessibility! But as I understand it, the issue has to do with what will be visible to users using screen readers or other assistive technology. If, for example, you just created a section heading by putting text in bold in a bigger font, that won’t be visible as a section heading to someone using a screen reader. This site has some really useful information:

  8. Ok, thanks — I could see how that could make a difference for a document that had headers, which this one didn’t… not blaming your explanation, which makes sense… perhaps jaydolmage will return to explain.

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