What is GAAD? Why is it important?
Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) was started by Joe Devon and Jennison Asuncion after a blog post that challenged companies everywhere to devote at least one day a year to test a page on their site with an accessibility tool, make any changes that became apparent during that test, and share their results with the world. That was 2011; the first GAAD was celebrated in May of 2012 and it's since become a mainstay within the tech community and an opportunity to check our progress and celebrate our advances toward the goal of making sure that technology is accessible to everyone.
Accessibility is an important issue that cuts across many different aspects of design. In the past we've discussed its intersection with usability and SEO in enough depth we broke into a 3 part series. Industry leaders like Microsoft and others are discussing the importance of diversability and how accessible products open doors for a more representative workforce. Ultimately, the more accessible things are, the more usable they are, and access is a boon to everyone.
"Unfortunately what we encounter too often with clients, is they are onboard with accessibility through the 'why' and even 'how' parts of the discussion, but lose enthusiasm when we get to 'how much' it will cost. Regretfully, doing what is right isn't always without a cost in both time and money." - David Minton, Managing Partner
Like many things that are worth investing time and effort into, the extra effort of ensuring that a website or product is as accessible as possible may come with a price tag. However, it is far easier to catch a problem early or, better yet, anticipate it before it even exists than to retroactively attempt to enact fixes. Accessibility is also occasionally a legal requirement. Outside of best practices. some projects may also need to consider compliance with certain laws and standards, which we can totally help you with. We try to cover the relevant points around GAAD time every year to make sure that in addition to the resources referenced above you have an approachable but fairly thorough overview of WCAG 2.1. Look forward to a future post when we'll discuss the most recent updates in more depth.
Above all GAAD is a Celebration.
It's a celebration of accessibility and steps we've made toward seeing everyone empowered to use the tech that we're building. The whole month is filled with events both virtual and in person all over the world. Whether it be the folks over at Twitch supporting our love of gaming, or ongoing virtual bootcamps on improving accessibility.
This year the DesignHammer team spent part of our GAAD with our partners at ablr. attending a wonderful virtual seminar hosted by John Samuel and moderated by Lindsay Wrege of 321 Coffee and featuring speakers such as Lori Samuels, Senior Director of Accessibility at NBCUniversal; Rene Espinoza, founder of Lazarillo; Stephen Levin of RTI International; and Bee Bube of Inmar Intelligence. It was a great time to discuss the positive effects of accessible design in the world outside of the web such as providing ways for clients to discuss the positive effects of accessible design in the world outside of the web such as providing ways for clients to navigate less accessible locations. At the end I was also struck by this takeaway:
"How much do we need to do? Everything we can." - Lori Samuels, NBCUniversal
The segments of our community that get overlooked and could be better served by more accessible products is approximately 10-15% of the market and approximately $20 billion of discretionary spending every year. This means that efforts to better serve this segment of our community has the potential for significant economic benefit in addition to the social benefits we get when more people have the power to leverage the capabilities of the tools we build and contribute more readily.