For people with disabilities, the world is a long way from being universally accessible, even though we’ve made tremendous strides in the physical world. For example, buildings require wheelchair ramps, readily provide accessible parking spots, and crosswalks play beeping sounds for the visually impaired. But what about the digital world? It’s still largely inaccessible, so Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is crucial to fostering a fair online environment.

The more the general public understands the digital barriers faced by people with disabilities, the more those in power take action to increase accessibility. This article explores this critical disability awareness day and other such days and months on our yearly calendar. It also looks at the current state of digital accessibility while providing valuable tips for achieving a more equitable online world for your business. 

What is Global Accessibility Awareness Day?

Global Accessibility Awareness Day started in 2012 to encourage a public conversation about digital access for people with different disabilities. Each year since, international and local organizations have held events that spotlight other accessibility solutions and engage the accessibility community. It takes place on May 18, 2023, and companies, nonprofits, and educational institutions hold numerous GAAD-related events (e.g., conferences, workshops, etc.) to draw attention to this universal celebration. 

The Current State of Digital Accessibility

While a lot of progress has been made related to public spaces and transportation, people with disabilities still have a difficult time accessing the internet. As of 2021, 98% of the world’s top 1 million websites do not offer full accessibility, preventing the one billion people living with some form of impairment across the globe from fully participating in online platforms.

People with visual impairments need screen readers, people who are deaf require captioning for video content, people with motor impairments need alternative navigation options, and those with cognitive disabilities can benefit from simple site designs. Digital accessibility is a global civil rights concern that requires a global response. Unfortunately, many website owners have very little awareness of accessibility guidelines. Others are hesitant because of the costs and logistics involved in re-coding their websites to make them accessible.

What is Disability Awareness Month

President Ronald Reagan acknowledged March as National Disabilities Awareness Month in 1987. This universal rally cry helps people understand, support, and inspire people with disabilities to thrive. Everyone is entitled to live in an equitable society regardless of their limitations. And each March, we raise disability rights awareness and honor their invaluable contributions to our world. This day gives every facet of humanity, from individuals to all-sized businesses, a chance to champion this crucial population segment.

What is National Disability Day?

Every year, on July 26, we celebrate National Disability Independence Day to recognize the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act  (ADA), which became law in 1990. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, and it’s recognized universally as the gold standard of accessibility worldwide.    

5 Tips for Supporting GAAD Everyday

1. Use Assistive Technology Tools

Assistive technology covers a broad range of AI and hands-on tools that help people with disabilities participate on the web. These tools include screen readers for people with visual disabilities and video captioning for people with hearing impairments. It’s best to partner with a third-party vendor specializing in assistive technology to increase accessibility and protect your company from compliance-related legal action.

2. Learn About all Disabilities

If you’re developing a website for people with disabilities, you must understand their wants, needs, and challenges. In addition, every disability requires a specific set of assistive tech tools, and a better understanding of each condition will help you determine your website development strategy.

3. Integrate Alt Text on Your Site

Alt text enables screen readers to give aloud image descriptions to site visitors who have vision-related disabilities. Appropriately crafted alt text is also known to elevate SEO website traffic. 

4. Provide Accessible Documents

It’s an often overlooked but crucial aspect of digital accessibility. Providing accessible documents means making them appear identical on all web channels and digital tools. You can address these guidelines manually or through an automated remediation tool.

5. Enlarge and Make Text Readable

Like most tools that help people with disabilities, using large readable fonts for your website content helps all end users. For example, sans serif fonts like Roboto, Open Sans, and Montserrat are easy to read for people of all abilities. There are even web fonts that are designed specifically for people with dyslexia.

Parting Words to Remember

As we celebrate GAAD, we should never forget that internet access is a fundamental human right. Special needs awareness is key to achieving an equitable web environment for all citizens. We need to work harder to remove all the barriers preventing people with disabilities from enjoying a first-rate online experience and participating in global discussions that shape their future.

Together, we will see the day when those with disabilities can take advantage of the opportunities for work, play, education, and commerce that the internet offers. By then, GAAD will no longer be a one-day celebration and instead become a year-round reminder of the right to an inclusive, accessible internet for everyone. 

It’s Always Global Accessibility Awareness Day at UserWay

UserWay continually celebrates GAAD by developing and promoting solutions to improve accessibility and make websites more compliant with accessibility guidelines, including ADA and WCAG. Today, more than 1 million websites have chosen UserWay as their accessibility solution.

Common FAQs

What’s The Best Way to Describe Disability Awareness?

Disability awareness means comprehending, recognizing, and supporting people with all disabilities. It starts with self-education, which leads to greater empathy and, ultimately, business strategies that address the needs of this critical demographic.  

What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technologies, sometimes called adaptive technologies, allow for greater independence for people with disabilities by enhancing or changing how they interact with the technology itself.

Where Can I Attend Events for Global Accessibility Awareness Day

This extraordinary day happens on May 18, 2023, and numerous worldwide events celebrate and support this cause. Check the official GAAD website for all related details.