Creating awareness about the challenges of global accessibility

Today we’re getting into the technology space again as this day, 9 May 2013, is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, or GAAD.

gaad-logo-miniMore 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.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day is all about equal access to technology for people living with a wide range of disabilities. (© All Rights Reserved)
Global Accessibility Awareness Day is all about equal access to digital technology for people living with a wide range of disabilities.
(© All Rights Reserved)

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.

Keeping your digital belongings secure on Computer Security Day

Today, 30 November, is Computer Security Day. The day, started in 1988, was initiated to raise awareness about computer security issues and to remind people to protect their computers and digital information.

I have to admit that I am no expert on this, but I do know that the subject is more or less as big as you care to make it – from ensuring that you have basic virus or mallware protection in place, all the way to going to great lengths to ensure that your ‘digital footprint’ is as small as possible, out of fear of online personality theft or some similarly sinister conspiracy theory. I definitely lean somewhat towards the relaxed side of the scale – I guess simply maintaining a blog and having a Facebook presence is already enough to have the extreme paranoids running screaming to the hills.

Do what you can to keep your precious data safe and secure.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Whatever your level of computer security awareness, there are some basic things we should all do – doing fairly regular backups, keeping your computer environment physically safe (locked up when you’re not around), clean and free of excess dust, pet hair etc, using unique, and non-obvious, passwords for your different online accounts, and not opening suspect emails or visiting dubious websites. (Sorry, but you didn’t win that million dollar lottery that you cannot remember entering, and that pastor trying to share his fortunes with you is not real either.)

Of course these days computer security no longer only applies to your home computer and/or laptop, but digital tablets and smart phones as well. In this age of being always connected and always online, I guess we should spend more time thinking about the topic than we typically do.

And perhaps Computer Security Day is just the day to get get us off our behinds and kick us into action.