Today is the tenth Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The third Thursday of every May is celebrated as GAAD.
What is GAAD?
The purpose of GAAD is to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion, and the more than one billion PwD (persons with disabilities or impairments). Over a billion of the world’s population has some form of disability. They are the world’s largest minority. This figure is on a constant increase due to an increase in the population as well as the medical advances that have decreased mortality due to old age.
How did GAAD begin?
The idea of GAAD started with a single blog post written in 2011 by a Los Angeles-based web developer, Joe Devon. Jennison Asuncion, an accessibility professional from Toronto, discovered Joe’s blog post purely by accident on Twitter. Joe and Jennison joined forces, leveraging their extensive and respective networks to realize the event.
Digital Accessibility of PwD
Every user deserves a first-rate digital experience on the web. Someone with a disability should 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 Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), a global event that shines a light on digital access and inclusion for people with disabilities.
Accessibility in India
About 60 million people in India are disabled; 42.5% of them are women while 75% of people with disabilities come from rural areas. Archaic laws and poverty don’t help the cause of digital inclusion for this minority. Although there is no specific legislation in India that ensures the right of disabled persons to access ICT (information and communications technology), The National Telecom Policy 2011 strategizes the need to recognize “telecom and broadband connectivity as a basic necessity like education and health and work towards ‘Right to Broadband’.”
Over the last few years, tech giants from Google and Microsoft to Apple and Wipro have touted efforts to make their products and services more accessible to people with disabilities. They’ve rolled out maps for the disability community, screen-reading technology that describes the content on a device and tools that share detailed descriptions of photos.
Amazon makes many of its products and services compatible with screen readers and offers closed captioning on programmes, as does Netflix. The streaming platform also began adding audio descriptions to TV shows and movies to assist viewers who are visually impaired.
Top 5 tips for digital accessibility
Business research consultancy HfS Research recommends these solutions for product companies in their white paper on digital accessibility:
1. Develop an accessibility strategy
Digital accessibility should not be an afterthought. Enterprises should develop a comprehensive digital accessibility strategy to ensure that their products are accessible to all potential users. Often, enterprises think that they need point solutions for testing or compliance, but in fact, they need a comprehensive accessibility strategy.
2. Seek help from external partners
It is difficult to have all the expertise, experience, and knowledge in-house to implement digital accessibility. Enterprises should seek help from experts who have implemented digital accessibility in multiple products.
3. Select your accessibility outsourcing partner diligently
It is a good idea to select service providers that have:
– A disability-sensitive culture inside their organization, which is evident from a disability-friendly campus, infrastructure, and digitally accessible internal applications.
– Full digital accessibility solutions across consulting, engineering, and testing. This will eliminate the need for additional service providers later.
– A dedicated accessibility practice and should continuously invest in developing and updating their capabilities.
– Partnerships with disability firms for understanding user requirements and testing.
– Knowledge of digital accessibility compliance standards across different domains and regions.
– Expertise in automation, which can be leveraged for accessibility testing and compliance to reduce cost and time-to-market.
– A global footprint and can provide accessibility services for different countries and regions.
– Scale and independent software vendor (ISV) relationships, which gives them diverse experience in working with different types of accessibility challenges.
– A structured training programme designed for developing digital accessibility expertise.
4. Monitor accessibility process and results proactively
Selecting a service provider is a big challenge, but the bigger challenge is to ensure that the outsourcing partner operates in the enterprise’s long-term interest of providing digital accessibility. In products, value is generated after products are launched, and some mistakes in the design and testing phase can become very costly in product operations. Constant monitoring of digital accessibility to ensure outliers and exceptions are captured and proactively solved is essential for providing digital accessibility to all. Even if the enterprise decides not to outsource, proactive monitoring of product accessibility is the key to long-term value generation.
5. Continuously evolve the process
Digital accessibility is a moving target as new types of accessibility challenges will emerge because of technology development, such as mobility, wearables, and so on. In addition, new forms of situational accessibility challenges (such as communication in noisy areas) will emerge, as will compliance and regulatory requirements. Enterprises need to continuously scan for new accessibility challenges and keep developing and evolving the process.
Providing digital accessibility for all is not only CSR but also good business. PWDs and an ageing population represent a huge market. If the potentially enormous market for digital accessibility does not excite companies to act, the fear of compliance will. In the future, enterprises will need to be compliant for digital accessibility.