The article below is based on my experience with implementing software based on accessibility standards in the U.S. If I have misspoken or been insensitive in my language, my deepest apologies. And I thank you in advance if you choose to comment below or use the Contact page to send me corrections or feedback.
What is equal access?
Everyone needs to be able to access public spaces, transit, businesses, non-profits, and government services. The goods, services, and programs provided need to be just as available and accessible to a person with disabilities as a person without disabilities. For example, both disabled and abled people need to be able to go to a physical school building. That building should include wheelchair ramps, an elevator, and accessible bathrooms. If you don't see those things, notice who is missing from that building, and those classrooms. And we're not talking about just the students, but also the teachers, staff, and parents. If accessible entries and basic self-care needs can't be met, then the learning space has a problem defined as a lack of access.
The need to make spaces accessible and the requirements for doing so will differ based on where you are. In the US, we have the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that you can learn about here: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/disability/ada The hope is that businesses will make their products, services, and spaces accessible to any potential employee or customer, and that if a lack of access is pointed out, the business will voluntarily fix the issue. But in many cases, those accessibility requests aren’t fulfilled for a variety of reasons - it’s deemed too expensive, it only affects a small percentage of the population, it’s not taken seriously. When a lack of access occurs and no attempt is made to fix it, it may need to be reported to the Department of Justice who then investigates and may bring on an attorney to manage settling the situation - the goal being that the business fixes the issues(s).
Access benefits everyone, from the parent pushing a stroller who is able to use the wheelchair ramp at a street corner to the employee who now has an accessible restroom on the floor of their building because of a customer request. But access in physical spaces is just the beginning of the picture.