On this episode of 'Inbound & Down,' host Jon Sasala sits down with the founder of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), Joe Devon, to discuss the event's inception and how individuals and businesses alike can participate.
Joe Devon, a developer by trade, did not intend to start a global accessibility revolution.
In search of a simple solution to make digital banking more accessible for his aging father, a frustrated Devon wrote a blog in 2011 on the site MySQLTalk about creating an annual awareness campaign for "developers and designers to become more aware of building products accessibly."
Shared by Wordpress, and noticed by Jennison Asuncion, an accessibility expert in the banking sector, Asuncion commented that he was excited by the idea, and thus, a partnership and an annual awareness campaign was born.
The GAAD Pledge
Scheduled for the third Thursday each May, Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) brings much-needed attention around improving web accessibility for the 1 billion people worldwide with a disability.
2020 represents the ninth GAAD celebration. Although hundreds of events are held annually, and it's viral in the community, Devon acknowledged that more work can be done at the ground level to improve how people with disabilities interact with technology.
Every year, the web accessibility non-profit WebAIM releases a report entitled The WebAIM Million, which is an analysis of the top 1 million homepages on the internet. According to the report, more than 60.9 million "distinct accessibility errors" were found across those homepages in 2020, an average of about 60 such errors per page.
The report's statistics confirmed Devon's feelings—despite GAADs efforts, the community at large had yet to sufficiently embrace accessibility. GAAD, Devon recognized, needed to become more tactical.
This year, Devon's digital marketing agency, Diamond, introduced the GAAD Pledge.
"We're trying to take these important open source projects and partner with them," Devon explains. "We don't want to push it on them in a negative way, we want to embrace the community and say, 'Hey, here's an opportunity for you guys to get better, engage the accessibility community, because it's super important for this to be positive. You're not going to win the hearts and minds with a lawsuit and fear.'"
Using the technical data from The WebAim Million report, the goal is to pair leaders with accessibility experts to make open source projects more accessible. Facebook is the first company to participate, pledging to make its open source web app framework, React Native, fully accessible.
"We're not trying to solve your accessibility problems, we're trying to get [the larger companies] into our community," Devon says. "We're going to leave you with an accessibility subject matter expert who will be a bridge between the community and the core developers. Because the goal at the end of this is that the core developers see what it takes to become more accessible, make it a core value of theirs, then being leaders in the community, I'm hoping that the culture shift is going to turn into other open source projects saying 'Oh my god, look at what this project is doing, now I've got to make my open source project accessible.' "
If you're not a member of a large team with the resources of powerful tech firms, such as Facebook, or you're an accessibility novice, there are still ways to participate in GAAD. There are more than 100 events to attend, and if you're qualified, you can host your own. You can also write a blog post about accessibility and share with the #GAAD hashtag. You can even mimic someone else's experience and try navigating your website with just a keyboard or screenreader; if you run into roadblocks, try and fix them.
We all need to start somewhere, so why not today? It may be frustrating at first but keep trying, because its mission-critical to provide basic fundamental human rights to all digital users.
As Devon says, "be positive...It's all about inspiring people."
- Diamond Agency
- 13 Letters podcast with Haben Girma: The Deaf-blind Lawyer
- Teach Access
- Deque University
- GAAD Pledge
- Be My Eyes
Do you have questions about making your website accessible? Share them at email@example.com.
This episode of Inbound & Down is sponsored by AudioEye, an industry-leading software solution provider delivering website accessibility compliance to businesses of all sizes. Learn more about AudioEye and the importance of digital accessibility, today.
This week's featured AudioEye post: Global Accessibility ‘Appreciation’ Day.
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