It’s Global Accessibility Awareness Day! Follow along as our team generates homegrown accessibility awareness all around the world. How are you celebrating GAAD 2016 today?

In celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) this year, we’re taking to the streets of our own hometowns. And, that’s quite a few locales! Yesterday, we shared with you about the cool activities happening in Australia, Scotland, and Nova Scotia to build more awareness about inclusion. We have more team members’ local activities and more places in the world to share the message. Check out the rest of what’s going on!

Nicolas Steenhout – Montreal, QC

Apple store in Laval, Quebec

I’ll be giving a presentation today on accessibility and assistive technology at the Apple Store in Laval, QC. I’m excited to create some web accessibility awareness with non-developers—the folks attending will be Apple staff and customers, so, it’s a great opportunity. I asked the organizer, Louis-Philippe Morier, why it was important for Apple to sensitize people about accessibility, and how he thinks this event will make a difference.

Louis-Philippe: “Trop souvent nous prenons pour acquis que LA méthode pour accéder à la technologie est deux mains, deux yeux, deux oreilles.

Il est important de souligner les systèmes qui incluent d’autres méthodes d’accès, et informer que ces moyens existent. Pour soi-même ou des proches.

Il faut démontrer l’importance d’une technologie accessible afin qu’une souris et un clavier ne soient plus perçus comme la manière “normale” mais plutôt une méthode parmi tant d’autres pour accéder à sa technologie.”

And now in English:

“Too often, we take for granted that the method to access technology is two hands, two eyes, two ears. It’s important to outline systems that allow other ways to access information, for oneself or for loved ones. We must demonstrate the importance of accessible technologies so that keyboard and mouse are no longer perceived as “normal”, but a method among others to access technology.”

For anyone in the Laval area who wants to hear Nic speak, his presentation (which will be in French) is at the Apple Store, Carrefour Laval, 3035 Boulevard le Carrefour from 1:45 pm until 2:45 pm Eastern.

Alex Turpin – Gatineau, QC

A view of Gatineau, Quebec from the Ottawa River

I work in the office of my old employer, a web shop making mostly client WordPress sites. A few years ago, they started encouraging their clients toward responsive websites. It seemed to them that responsive should be baked in from the start, and not seen as an additional feature, what with so many people using mobile phones to access the web. I drew a parallel with accessibility to help them realize that this is a similar situation: accessibility needs to be included from the start, and not seen as an afterthought. They will be considering it!

Melanie Jones – Brooklyn, NY

Manhattan bridge in Brooklyn

As the resident non-technical person on the Simply Accessible team, I’m constantly bumping up against both how much I don’t know about accessibility and how much responsibility and impact I have as a content creator. GAAD 2016 coincides with the online launch of my newest book and a bunch of associated information products (worksheets, audio, etc). So for Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2016, I publicly pledge to make my site and products accessible to all kinds of users. I don’t yet know the ins and outs of how I’ll approach this, but I know I’m supported by a team of colleagues who can help me figure it out. I’ll need to make sure my WordPress site isn’t getting in anyone’s way, and I’ll need to provide transcripts for the audio files, as well as offer accessible versions of the PDF book file and worksheets (thank goodness Joanna just published an article about this). I’ll also need to learn more about e-book files (.epub and .mobi) and if barriers exist within them. I started the day embarrassed that my stuff wasn’t accessible, but I’m ending it feeling committed, galvanized, and inspired to do better.

Gavin Ogston – Ottawa, ON

a11yYOW logo

For GAAD this year, I’ll be heading over to a11yYOW, Accessibility Camp Ottawa. Ottawa has a great community of passionate web developers, but most of us are heads-down working on projects all year, so it’s a big deal to step away from our computers and reconnect with the community. A11yYOW was the first accessibility conference I ever attended, and I’ve been going back ever since to recharge and reconnect with the local accessibility community. The presentations offer a great mix of experiences, theory, and technical know-how, and there’s always something valuable to take away from the event. I can’t wait for GAAD—looking forward seeing what everyone is up to and what’s keeping them inspired and challenged in the field. I’ll report back after the event!

Derek Featherstone – Ottawa, ON

Abilities Centre Ottawa

I’ll also be spending Global Accessibility Awareness Day at a11yYOW, an entire afternoon with other accessibility speakers/panelists. I’ll be presenting, but what I really want to do at the event is chat with one of the other groups presenting, Abilities Centre Ottawa (ACO).

The ACO will be an inclusive, multi-purpose recreation facility designed with accessibility in mind. I’m planning to chat with them to see what opportunities exist for developers and designers to be involved. I want all of us web geeks to expand our horizons beyond an understanding of this little niche called Web Accessibility and start to think of broader inclusion initiatives. How does this facility integrate access and inclusion into everything they do? What can we learn from that for our work on the web? Can we find opportunities for people in our digital community to give back in a way that opens them up to learning new things about people with disabilities and see them as people, not “users”? I’ll let you know what I find out.

Scott Vinkle – Ottawa, ON

Ottawa, ON #CodePenOttawa

I took accessibility awareness to my CodePen Ottawa Slack channel. I asked my dev pals, “What’s one thing wish you knew more about when it comes to accessibility development and/or testing?”

Here are the responses I received:

  • “I’d love to see more videos of real users using websites, what that experience is like and how it could be better.”
  • “As a dev, I’d like to know more about the actual screen readers and how they behave. I spend my time building websites, and testing them using browsers and the built-in screen reader in my OS, but I’m limited when it comes to the real experience. I wish there was a place that would let us test some real assistive technology, and see how the users actually interact with our websites.”
  • “I don’t quite know how to word this, but I think one of the biggest challenges is not knowing it’s a problem to begin with. It’s not very clear what you need to learn. It’s sort of a cycle: without knowing what to learn, how can you learn more about it?”

Elle Waters – Louisville, KY

Person opening a large Braille book imprinting device

Located in a historic neighbourhood in Louisville, Kentucky, just 15 minutes from my house, is a venerable old building that houses the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). APH was established in the 1800s before the start of the Civil War. The oldest organization of its kind, the APH provided, and still provides, education and resource materials to help individuals of all ages, with the mission to help people achieve independence. They even have a tour of the printing house and a museum, with 7,000 visitors each year.

More recently, the APH has also become an active advocate of promoting awareness and to educate the blind. Beyond their educational outreaches to other organizations across the world and the incredible products that the they produce in their 280,000 square foot building, the APH is also doing some things lately that really excite the geek in me.

Cinema Saturday

On the second Saturday of each month during the summer, the APH hosts free showings of popular films with audio description. Afterwards, attendees are encouraged to participate in an ongoing discussion about Hollywood’s role and portrayal of blindness in films.

Product innovation

The APH is always looking for creative ways to solve problems or improve the efficiency of the tools, products, and services that they offer for blind individuals. They recently created a web form on their site to allow everyone the opportunity to pitch a new idea or a suggested improvement. Crowdsourcing innovation – fantastic!

How I’m celebrating GAAD 2016

In honour of SA’s homegrown awareness celebration of GAAD 2016, I will be interviewing Roberta Williams at the American Printing House for the Blind, here in Louisville, KY, and we’re going to discuss ways in which we can increase local awareness of all the work that this organization does to make the world a more accessible place.

We’ll keep travelling west throughout the day, checking in with our West Coast and Pacific team members as GAAD 2016 rolls along. Let us know how you’re celebrating Global Accessibility Day where you are. How are you generating awareness today?