Global Accessibility Awareness Day highlights need for developer education

by Emma

In 2020, WebAIM released a report that revealed 98.1% of web pages had at least one failure to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Today, Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Being aware of—and acting on—accessibility issues as a developer is more important than ever if that percentage decreases. 

Common accessibility issues that affect sites the most include low contrast text, missing image alt text, empty links, missing form input labels, empty buttons, and missing document language. 

Global Accessibility Awarenessc

According to GAAD’s website, over 1 billion people worldwide have disabilities, including visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive impairments. 

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To mark the event’s 10th anniversary, a new foundation is being created. The GAAD Foundation’s mission is to “disrupt the culture of technology and digital product development to one that includes accessibility as a core requirement.” It will be led by Joe Devon and Jennison Asuncion, the creators of GAAD. 

Pretty Kumar, founder and CEO of accessibility company Deque Systems believes developers don’t overlook accessibility intentionally. She says accessibility isn’t always considered due to a lack of awareness, knowledge, or empathy due to not understanding the challenges people with disabilities have when visiting inaccessible sites.

She believes that developers should learn how to make more accessible applications as often as possible and put that into practice every day. “Just like you have your Olympic swimmer or your golfer or your ballerina, they take that practice and do a little bit every day. What I would wish developers would do is just make it a part of their everyday practice over time,” said Kumar. 

Several tools make it simple for developers to ensure what they’re building is accessible. For example, Deque has the ax DevTools extension, a browser extension that offers automated accessibility testing. 

“My goal from day one ever since I started in this field 20 years ago was to automate as much as we possibly could so that it would be easy to do, and we are doing that with machine learning in a brilliant way,” said Kumar.  Another extension is the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool developed by IAM. It identifies WCAG errors and facilitates human evaluation of applications. 

IBM also earlier this week released updates to its tool for scanning applications for accessibility issues. The IBM Equal Access Accessibility Checker now offers a multi-scan report capability, making it easier for developers to discover and fix accessibility issues. 

“On May 20, 2021, the world will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). According to the GAAD website, the purpose of GAAD is to get everyone talking, thinking, and learning about digital access and inclusion. Personally, I think 10 years is too long to still be talking about awareness. I would love for the second A in GAAD to stand for ‘Action,’” Si McAleer, program director for IBM Accessibility, wrote in a post

GAAD’s website recommends developers get involved by spending an hour today focusing on accessibility awareness. Karen Mardahl provided examples of how to spread awareness on GAAD’s website, which includes:

  • Caption a video or prepare a transcript
  • Write a blog post on digital accessibility awareness
  • Create a video demonstrating how you use assistive technology

“Every user deserves a first-rate digital experience on the web. Someone with a disability must experience web-based services, content, and other digital products with the same successful outcome as those without disabilities. This awareness and commitment to inclusion is the goal of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), a global event that shines a light on digital access and inclusion for people with disabilities,” GAAD’s website states.

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