Today we’re getting into the technology space again as this day, 9 May 2013, is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, or GAAD.
More specifically, it is about ‘digital accessibility’ and creating awareness about the tireless quest of many designers and developers to make digital technology accessible, usable and inclusive to users with different disabilities. As stated on the GAAD website, “professionals who work in the field of digital accessibility often find themselves preaching to the converted”, and through this day they are hoping to remedy the situation. To get involved, you can like the GAAD Facebook page, follow @gbla11yday on twitter, or tweet on the subject using the hashtag #gaad.
To make the idea of digital access for the disabled more tangible to able-bodied people, the GAAD website suggests a number of activities one can engage in:
- Going without a mouse or touchpad for an hour, and try to work using your keyboard only (tab/shift tab, arrow keys, enter and spacebar).
- Surf the web for an hour using only a screen reader, such as the free/open source NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) application for PC, or the built-in screenreader called VoiceOver on Mac.
- Learn about and try out some of the accessibility features already included in Windows 7, Mac OS X, iPhone, Android and Blackberry.
Spending some time with the above tools really hammers home the incredible challenge faced by people with disabilities to keep up with the digital revolution. It is so easy for us to just accept and embrace the digital-everything world we are living in, without spending a minute to think about the extent of exclusivity and discrimination that is an inherent part of this world. Not only are there millions of disabled people in digitally accessible areas who cannot fully take part in this world – there are billions more, able-bodied and disabled, who don’t even have the luxury of basic digital access (but that’s a whole different story).
At the same time, spending time with these accessibility tools also reminds us of the incredible work that designers and developers have already done (often as unpaid volunteers) to make global accessibility a reality. Given where the world has gotten to, this is a massive challenge that needs support, both financially and in terms of awareness creation. So use this day to experience it, talk about it, and if at all possible, getting involved – either as a technical contributor or as a lobbyist and campaigner for the cause.