Global Accessibility Awareness Day


People around the world will be recognizing the Seventh Annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on May 17th. (It generally takes place on the third Thursday in May). Too often, people with disabilities encounter significant barriers when trying to gain information through digital channels. For instance, something as simple as navigating a Webpage menu using a mouse may be impossible for those with limited use of their hands. This day is dedicated to encouraging people to think and talk about accessibility and inclusion, especially as they pertain to technology.  


  
The occasion was inspired by a blog post penned in 2011 by computer programmer Joe Devon. In the piece, he discusses the importance of Web accessibility for different populations, such as older people or those with visual impairments who rely on a screenreader to decipher online content. He encourages Web developers to create sites with closed-captioning and related features to make them as user-friendly as possible. He also challenges technology experts to test their innovations to see how accessible they really are.  


  
Web designers are often at a loss as to how to make their sites more user-friendly. A few minor adaptations can make a huge difference. Using a larger font size (16-point), providing text descriptions of images, and allowing keyboard navigation are just a few ways to promote ease-of-use. Providing accessible documents in PDF or Microsoft Office formats enables those who use screenreaders or Braille translators to accurately review the material. The Job Accommodation Network provides tips for assessing Webpage accessibility and making any necessary modifications.  
  
The federal government's General Service Administration (GSA) recognizes GAAD and has had a tremendous impact on improving electronic accessibility for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. January 2017 saw the passage of the final rule on Section 508of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The rule outlines a revised set of standards for electronic and information technology developed, acquired, used, and maintained by federal agencies. Updates to the Rehabilitation Act ensure that the US government aligns with international accessibility standards.  


  
According to Facebook, more than two dozen virtual and in-person events are scheduled to take place on GAAD. The events give people the opportunity to learn more about assistive technology and how Web design can accommodate it. With its emphasis on technology, GAAD offers the flexibility to create events of all types and sizes, making it possible to reach a larger audience. Tim Berners-Lee, who is credited with inventing the World Wide Web, once said, "The power of the Web is in its universality." The goal of GAAD is to make the Web truly universally-accessible.  



  
At NTI, we support initiatives and innovations that augment the capabilities of people with disabilities, and we understand how assistive technology can level the playing field. Therefore, to help further employ individuals with disabilities, we have set up a GoFundMe page to raise $25,000 to build an accessibility lab.  


  
ALL funds will be used to cover the costs of assistive software such as JAWS, ZoomText, Dragon Speak as well as the computers and hardware accessories that will be needed for testing.  Training is also needed in each one of the adaptive software programs tested.  We would also like to be able to hire a consultant to help with our assessments.   
  
If you would like to help in this elaborate endeavor, visit snip.ly/GlobalAccess.  In-kind donations will be appreciated as well.  



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