What is this you say? Glad you asked. Global Accessibility Awareness Day is celebrated on the 3rd Thursday of May. In its 5th year of existence, its goal is still to bring awareness and educate the technology community on how to make all things accessible.
When I look back at the advances that have been made in accessibility over the years, it still amazes me. I remember when the first automated teller machines were coming out in early 90s. By then, the computers I used spoke to me via specialized programs with hardware-based text-to-speech. They sounded terrible by the way, but they got the job done.
So why couldn’t the teller machines speak as well? Why did it take so long? I think it’s partly because speech technology wasn’t robust enough at the time and had to mature in order for it to be financially feasible. Also, banks needed to be made aware that a portion of their clientele was not able to access their machines on their own. The last piece was for the banks to require bank machine manufactures to implement accessibility into their design. I’m sure legislation played a big part into getting things done, but the fact remains that I can now do my own banking like everybody else. I can go to virtually any teller machine and voila, an ear phone jack. Plug in and I’m off to the races.
That’s what it essentially boils down to. Most of the time, small modifications and enhancements enable a person with disability their independence.
Over the years, in my career which has turned out to be all about accessibility, I find myself spending a lot of time convincing people about the virtues of accessibility. People tend to think that, I am requesting changes to web pages, work processes, document enhancements and the like only to benefit me; because I’m the blind guy. The trick is to get individuals to see the bigger picture. Accessibility doesn’t just affect a few token individuals. The benefits can enhance all of our experiences. One last story, only because I think it’s a great example of accessibility and usability success. There was a web site here at work that many people accessed frequently. I was one of those people. The page had been coded using JAVA applets and other magic tricks. Out of a lot of guess work and determination, I was finally able to access what I needed from that site, but suffice it to say that the experience was not fun at all. I therefore slated this site as an accessibility fail and started discussing alternatives with my colleagues. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one having issues with the site. Because of the way things were coded on the page, it was only accessible via computer-based browsers; no mobile devices and/or tablets. Jump forward 6 months… After a few meetings, some beta-testing work from yours truly, and we have a fully accessible site, WCAG 2.0 Level AA and it’s also usable from mobile and tablets. Everybody wins!
So, pause on this day and take an opportunity to think about accessibility for all.
Visit the GAAD website for further info: