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For people who don’t live with a disability, it may be easy to think the problem of universal accessibility has already been solved. Buildings are required to have wheelchair ramps, parking lots have spaces at the front for people with disabilities, and crosswalks play beeping sounds for the visually-impaired.
But what about the internet? How do we know if a website is accessible for people with not just one type of disability, but all types?
Until recently, it was almost impossible to know.
The Current State of 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 around the world 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.
Much work remains to be done when it comes to ensuring a fully accessible Internet for everyone. 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.
The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has further underscored the need for more inclusive and accessible online services. Since many people with disabilities depend on websites and mobile apps for their basic needs, the lack of accessibility raises the barrier to basic services significantly.
Why We Celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day
To raise awareness of this situation, Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) was launched in 2012. According to the GAAD website, the purpose of GAAD is “to get everyone talking about digital access and people with different disabilities.” Every May, both global and local organizations hold events that showcase different accessibility solutions and engage the accessibility community.
This year, GAAD will be celebrated on May 19, 2022. GAAD-related events include conferences, accessibility training, and workshops focusing on digital inclusivity.
For instance, the state government of Minnesota encourages its employees to work without a mouse for 15 minutes. Many other events will be held virtually by nonprofits, academic institutions and corporations, making it possible for people from all over the world to participate in the discussion.
Every Day is Global Accessibility Awareness Day for UserWay
For our part, UserWay celebrates GAAD by developing and promoting solutions that seek to improve accessibility and make websites more compliant with accessibility guidelines, including ADA and WCAG. As of today, more than 1 million websites have chosen UserWay as their accessibility solution, with many more being added every day.
We also make sure that everyone, even people without a disability, knows that websites with our solution installed are accessible. The universal symbol for accessibility is easy to spot in the corner of the screen, and reveals an intuitive user interface as soon as it’s clicked.
As we celebrate GAAD, we should always keep in mind that internet access is a fundamental human right. We need to work harder to take down all the barriers that prevent 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.