Why commemorating Global Accessibility Awareness Day is important

Have you heard of Global Accessibility Awareness Day?

This global event, which was May 18, shines a light on digital access and inclusion for people with disabilities. The idea is that every user deserves a first-rate experience on the web. Someone with a disability must be able to experience web-based services, content and other digital products with the same successful outcome as those without disabilities. 

In 2020, WebAIM analyzed 1 million home pages for accessibility issues and found the following:
  • 86.3% had low-contrast text.
  • 66% were missing image alt text.
  • 59.9% had empty links.
  • 53.8% were missing form input labels.
  • 28.7% had empty buttons.
  • 28% were missing document language.

These digital shortfalls need to be addressed because they are a potential obstacle for the 1 billion people worldwide who have disabilities.

Digital access often overlooked

Technology is an important part of our everyday world. We use it for school, work, fun, and to connect with others. It’s opened the door up for much more inclusion – yet barriers continue to exist for people with disabilities. 

Accessibility, especially around technology, isn’t something we talk about regularly. There’s an assumption that digital access is routinely considered – look at all the work that’s been done in the 30-plus years since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. Public facilities, transportation, and programs have become physically accessible. But our growing digital world creates another layer of inaccessibility.

Website accessibility is really ground zero when it comes to digital access. Under federal law, websites need to be accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.

That’s because they need to access the same information and services that are available to those without disabilities, whether that be the news, online shopping, government services, online banking, and other services. Think about how you use the internet on a daily basis. You use your computer, smart phone, tablet, TV, watch, etc. 

At one time, closed captioning wasn’t widely available. These days, captions are common on streaming sites like Netflix or Hulu so people with disabilities such as hearing loss can enjoy more TV shows and movies. Even YouTube has closed captioning. 

While podcasts are growing in popularity, they often are inaccessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, unless they are transcribed.

Google Meets enables captions, and although it can’t decipher every word correctly, it goes a long way toward making online meetings accessible.

Everyone can help

My employer, Salesforce, along with other companies, including Microsoft and Apple, program events for Global Accessibility Awareness Day to focus on digital access.

Each of us can play a role in increasing digital accessibility. On an individual basis, we can support technology such as Be My Eyes, an app that helps people who are blind or have low vision recognize objects and cope with everyday situations. An online community of sighted volunteers receives photos or videos from affected individuals and assists via live chat.

Does your company, small business or non-profit participate in GAAD? What are ways you make sure to provide digital access to people with disabilities? 

You don’t have to wait until the next Global Accessibility Awareness Day to educate your employees or the community. Connect with your local disability organization, or reach out to your Employee Resource Group focused on disability inclusion. Let’s make digital access a priority. 

This article is part of a multi-year-long series Disability Inclusion, exploring the state of West Michigan’s growing disability community. The series is made possible through a partnership with Centers for Independent Living organizations across West Michigan.
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