Skip to main content Skip to main menu

Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day! Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) takes place around the world on the third Thursday of May every year. The day is a chance to spread awareness about how people with disabilities use technology. Many people who design or fund technology want to make it accessible. However, these people are often unaware about what makes technology accessible. On Global Accessibility Awareness Day, community organizations host events to help people learn more about technology accessibility.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Accessible Hardware

Accessible hardware devices connect to computers or phones and allow people to input and receive information in different ways. People may use different kinds of keyboards, such as one-handed or large-key keyboards. Key guards are frames that fit over a keyboard with a hole for each key. This set-up ensures that users type only one key at a time. Furthermore, some people use pointing devices other than traditional mice. Trackballs are larger than traditional mice, and people can operate them with their thumbs, palms, or feet as well as their fingers. Other alternative mice include touch pads or screens, light pens, joysticks, head pointers, or mouth sticks.

Some people may also use these devices, or eye-tracking systems, as alternatives for keyboards as well as mice. In contrast, other people may not use any kind of pointing system. Instead, they use certain keys on their keyboards to perform tasks usually completed by clicking a mouse.

Large monitors allow large-print readers to access more information at a time. In contrast, Braille displays present the screen’s contents in Braille. People may also print in Braille using Braille embossers.

Accessible Software

Accessible software programs also affect how people can input and receive information. On-screen keyboards allow users to type by selecting letters, numbers, or symbols with their pointing devices. Speech recognition software allows users to control the computer or phone with their voices. Predictive software helps users input words by displaying word options they can choose from after they have typed the first few letters.

People may use screen magnification software to enlarge information on their screens, or use screen reader software that reads information aloud.

These types of software are often available through various programs. Many programs are built for different types of computers, such as Windows or Mac. Some programs are built into operating systems or browsers, while others are third-party software that users purchase from companies specializing in accessible hardware and software. Programs sometimes offer different levels of accessibility. For instance, some programs that read aloud read more information than others. Therefore, different people will find certain programs more valuable or necessary than others, depending on what their needs are.

Website Accessibility

Finally, developers need to make websites compatible with the hardware and software people use on their accessible computers or phones. To do so, websites must comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. This international standard gives web developers guidelines on web accessibility.

Highlights of WCAG 2.0

For example, guidelines state that people should be able to:

  • Perceive and navigate web content, such as with:
    • Text, instead of images of text
    • Information enlarged up to 200 per cent without losing site functionality
    • Good colour contrast between text and background
    • Buttons labeled with words, not just with pictures, shapes, or colours
    • Captions available for all audio
    • Audio descriptions and captions available for all videos
  • Operate websites, such as with:
    • Keyboard commands instead of mouse clicking
    • Options to extend time limits
    • No elements that might induce seizures, such as flashing lights
    • Titles and headings that help people know where they are
  • Understand website information and layout, such as with:
    • Simple, linear layouts that are the same for each page of a website
    • Clear language, instead of figures of speech
    • Clear instructions for completing tasks, such as purchasing items or filling in forms
    • Text descriptions of errors when inputting information
    • Sign language interpretation
    • Definitions of unusual words and abbreviations
  • Visit websites using a variety of assistive technology, such as:
    • Screen readers and Braille displays
    • Screen magnifiers
    • Speech recognition programs

The WCAG webpage provides the full list of requirements, as well as technical guidance for website owners and developers on how to implement them.

Computer accessibility gives everyone an equal chance to take part in a world that is becoming more and more digital. Global Accessibility Awareness Day helps more people learn about the many ways people with disabilities use computers or phones. In this way, technology developers can learn about the need to make their websites and apps accessible. Furthermore, they can find out specifics about how elements of their design interact with assistive technologies.

Happy Global Accessibility Awareness Day to all our readers!