Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). According to their website, every person that accesses the Internet deserves a first-rate digital experience. 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. This awareness and commitment to inclusion is the goal of GAAD. This event was launched 9 years ago based on a single blog post that challenged web developers and designers to dig deeper on the accessibility of their web content. Unfortunately, equal access to the Internet is not always available. This year one million webpages were analyzed for accessibility and came up lacking. Some of the issues were low contrast, no alt text for images, empty links, and missing form input labels. These issues and more all impact the ability of those with disabilities to access information on the Internet.
Every day I spend the bulk of my time online. As a result, I come across inaccessible websites on a regular basis. Just this week I was trying to register my all in one printer with the manufacturer and portions of that process were not accessible with my screen reader. When I called customer service, I was told that they could not assist me and that I had to complete the process on my own; but yet the website is not accessible. I have heard this all the time for many years. I have used sighted friends to help me from time to time. Yet it has been somewhat frustrating and annoying when there are probably simple fixes in the web coding that could be done to remedy the problem. Additionally, I bump up on accessibility with mobile apps. I hear all the time about wonderful apps that can do this or that. But my question is, “Is it accessible?” If not, I don’t even bother with downloading it because it’s not going to work for me no matter how wonderful.
I have learned that I have to continue being an advocate and speak up about this issue. Many people still don’t realize that people that are blind and visually impaired are actively online. That we use adaptive technology to access the internet. Not only do I use the internet to post this blog I am writing but I live my life like everyone else. Here are some examples:
1. Download books to read for my book club.
2. Stream movies to watch on Netflix.
3. Participate in Zoom videoconferencing meetings on my desktop computer.
4. Completed my 2020 census online.
5. order groceries and other goods online.
Now we are in the midst of a global pandemic and it is even more critical that everyone have access to the internet. More and more people are working from home. Shopping, banking and other daily activities have increased online. School students are taking classes on their computers or tablets. Various entertainment venues are looking at moving some of their content online. So, web designers and developers need to know and understand that people with disabilities, which add up to about a billion worldwide, are online too and need equal access.