Global Accessibility Awareness Day
Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, when people around the world come together to focus on digital accessibility.
What Is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)?
The purpose of the day is to raise awareness of why websites, apps and software should be designed so they can be used by everyone, regardless of any disability a person may have. Different organisations throughout the world are putting on events and people are contributing to raise awareness of accessibility issues.
It is also popular on social media, with the hashtag #GAAD being used on Twitter to discuss this often overlooked subject.
How GAAD started
The idea for Global Accessibility Awareness Day began after a blog post by developer Joe Devon was read by accessibility professional Jennison Asuncion. The two got together and came up with the idea for the first ‘GAAD’, which took place in May 2012. The global event has been growing in popularity over the past three years, with a wide range of events planned for today across the world.
Who is it for?
GAAD was set up for those working in digital who help build the technology we all use. The GAAD founders believe that “While people may be interested in the topic of making technology accessible and usable by persons with disabilities, the reality is that they often do not know how or where to start. Awareness comes first.”
The idea is that by raising awareness of accessibility issues, designers and developers will improve their knowledge of how to improve the accessibility of the websites and apps they are building, leading to a more accessible web.
What is accessibility?
Accessibility, sometimes also referred to as ‘inclusive design’, describes ways of building websites or apps that can be used by people regardless of any disability they may have. It means considering the requirements of all users.
There are a wide range of different accessibility issues that should be considered. Some of these include visual, motor/mobility, auditory, seizures and cognitive/intellectual.
Users visiting your website may be using assistive technology to help them find their way around. As well as mouse and touch/gesture navigation, the following should be taken into account as tools people may use to access a website:
- Screen magnifiers – Increase the size of the content on the screen
- Screen readers – Read out the text of a website (you can download for free at Screenreader.net or NVacess.org)
- Braille displays – Help partially sighted users ‘read’ a page using touch
- Specialist keyboards – Have larger keys than standard keyboards
- Mouse substitutes – For example, joysticks, trackballs and touchpads
With technology constantly changing, a range of different devices and technologies need to be taken into account when it comes to building accessible sites and apps.
While the ethical reasons for building accessible sites and apps are clear, there is also a compelling business case for improving accessibility:
- There are over 11 million people with a disability living in the UK, which is around 20% of people of a working age
- Their spending power is in excess of £100bn
- An aging population means the numbers are likely to increase
- 1.8 million people have a vision impairment, of which 180,000 are registered blind
- Roughly one in 12 men are colour-blind, and around 0.5% of women.
- 2.6 million people have difficulties using their hands, which could impact their use of a keyboard and/or mouse
- About two million people have a hearing impairment, of which 50,000 use British Sign Language to communicate
- About two million people are dyslexic
- 2.2 million people have difficulty with memory, concentration or learning, of which about one million have a learning difficulty
- 83% of disabled people will not return to a business that does not meet their access needs
Accessibility is not just about people with permanent disabilities. People with accessibility issues also include older users, those with temporary disabilities (e.g. short term injuries), people using older computers or browsers, and people using devices with restrictions, such as mobile browsers. The context that an individual finds themselves in can lead to temporary accessibility issues too. An example of this would be a user trying to read a web page in the sunshine, or use an app while running.
It is clear there are a huge number of people with accessibility issues, who could be potential customers for most businesses. Ignoring them could mean missing out on a substantial amount of revenue.
There are other advantages to improved accessibility, as well as a direct increase in revenue. Accessible pages often mean reduced page sizes (meaning faster load times), improved search visibility and an improved overall brand reputation.
Here at Fresh Egg, we take accessibility very seriously. We believe that accessibility isn’t just something to tick off a list when designing a site but that it should be fully integrated throughout the entire design process. To quote Robin Christopherson, Head of Inclusion at AbilityNet:
“We’ve seen lots of websites that are strict AA compliant but they are still very difficult for disabled users. You can check all the boxes when adhering to the guidelines but there can still be a lot of issues, mainly UX related ones.”
In fact, we are currently undergoing a redevelopment project on our own website as part of which we will be addressing a few small outstanding issues to bring the site in line with accessibility compliance. With one of the founders of Fresh Egg himself wheelchair-bound, accessibility really is a subject close to our hearts.
People working in digital should be considering all of their users, from the initial wireframing of a website or app right through to the user testing phase. Remember, accessible websites and apps are generally easier to use for everybody and not just disabled users, and there is a strong business case (as well as an ethical one) for accessibility.
As part of GAAD people are encouraged to participate by changing their working practices to get a better idea of how difficult it is for people with disabilities to use certain websites. The GAAD team are encouraging people to try some of the following during the day:
- Go mouseless for an hour
- Enlarge your fonts
- Check for sufficient colour contrast
- Surf the web with a screen reader for an hour
- Learn about and use other operating system/mobile accessibility features
- Try other adaptive software tools
- Contribute directly to the digital accessibility effort
By partaking in one or more of these you can get a real insight into the frustrations felt by disabled users on a daily basis.
Did you know you can check out the accessibility of your own site? SImply enter your website URL into AC Checker and discover where you could make improvements.
Our conversion and UX team can help improve your site’s accessibility. Get in touch today.