21st May was Global Accessibility Awareness Day #GAAD
Why do we need such a day to promote awareness?
By Robert Wemyss Tech guru at RUS
Imagine using your computer without your mouse, keyboard or dropdown features.
Many routine, daily tasks would become needlessly difficult, and complex digital tasks would be near-impossible.
For many people, this is reality, and it’s a reality that Global Accessibility Awareness Day aims to challenge.
Many people who have not experienced disability are unaware that digital accessibility issues exist at all, while others are aware of the challenges but don’t know where to find help in addressing them.
It doesn’t matter if you are a weekend blogger or for-fun site editor or a professional software developer, you can learn not just about the challenges users face, but the real solutions and all about accessible technologies that already exist.
You can improve accessibility by doing simple things like choosing contrasting colours for example, making sure font sizes are accessible and all images have alt text.
Simple fixes are a great place to start but we have to get web developers to go much further.
Accessible technologies have a big role to play. Tools like text to speech open your content to a world of new users, turning any text-based page into an audible experience.
You can use document readers, you can ensure your design has an easy read version.
In the past disabled people could expect to pay a very high price for assistive technology and screen readers.
All this accessible functionality and much more can now be supplied for a fraction of the cost by smartphones or tablets using mainstream applications, rather than expensively produced bespoke software. With the addition of inexpensive hardware such as a Bluetooth keyboard or switching device, you can accommodate almost everyone.
I have been in several meetings where accessibility has been perceived as an afterthought – the final bullet point on a procurement brief or a competitive tender. Accessibility tended to prompt sighs of resignation and regret. It was a “nice to have if we had the budget” kind of an agenda item. I believe this is the wrong approach and the wrong attitude. Accessibility can meet usability head on.
As a web developer I know what is great for disabled people is fantastic for everyone.
We have seen the big IT companies rushing to market with amazing technology that can transform the world of disabled people. From google Glass and augmented reality to money readers that use your phone camera to scan and read your money. All great for people with a visual loss.
The idea of kitchen appliances controlled by your wifi could for example enable washing machines to become more accessible. Turning on your kettle and light switches all from your iPad.
#GAAD is all about raising awareness of accessibility so that we stop building in barriers and open up a world of possibilities. Lets stop excluding and starting including.
Sounds Good but where do I start?
Accessibility can be daunting. At RUS, we have a plan to help businesses take the first steps in making their websites more inclusive and better for everyone.
The plan is simple:
- RUS are collaborating with accessibility experts, leading charities and digital agencies produce the manual of easily achievable changes to improve your website.
- Businesses can simply measure the impact of these changes with a new Accessibility Return on Investment Calculator.
- We shout about success. Businesses who care about including all customers online will be added to the Trading For Good platform to tell others how small changes led to more visitors and increased profits.