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Event Recap

Accessibility Fundamentals & Awareness for Everyone: A GAAD Webinar

Team Insights

Many different organizations honored Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on May 16 in different ways. Some people volunteered their time. Others put on events. This year I chose to attend one of these virtual events, a webinar hosted by Deque called GAAD 2024: Accessibility Fundamentals Bootcamp. Always good to gather with like-minded individuals to learn something new!

While the target audience of the webinar was perhaps a little more beginner/generalized than my skillset, there was still plenty of helpful information, perspectives, and resources. One such concept that I looked at differently after the webinar was the way to look at the statistics of the amount of disabled people in the world. They brought up a few factors that could make statistics we know (such as 1.3 billion people identifying as having a disability globally, and roughly 26% of Americans) very inaccurate. One, not everyone who has a disability identifies as such. I, for one, don't identify as having a disability, but if I were to remove my glasses, I would not be allowed to drive and wouldn't be able to see screens clearly unless they were in six inches of my face. Also, these statistics are based largely on those with permanent disabilities. Temporary and situational disabilities are rarely included in these statistics also. So the reality is, at any one time, the percentages of people with disabilities, whether they be permanent, temporary, or situational, self-identified or factually true, is much higher.

This extends into thinking about user personas and how we look at designs and frustrations of users. We shouldn't only be looking at preferred devices, occupations, and the like. We also don't necessarily have to give user personas explicit permanent disabilities. They could have common situational disabilities, or have a disability but don't self identify as having one, or having cognitive disability instead of just looking at more obvious physical disabilities such as deafness or blindness. Thinking about people that have trouble processing or focusing can be a better guide to a strong inclusive design than making sure it's read by screen readers (although that's also crucial).

Lastly, they brought up a real life example of how not considering accessibility from the start can be costly, though this was a physical example instead of a web one. A town had train tracks running through it that impeded local traffic, so it was decided to add a bridge so that residents could still reach their destinations without waiting for long freight trains to pass. After the original bridge was designed, the residents of the town requested an ADA compliant bridge, so strollers, wheelchair users, and bikers could use the bridge too. The request was approved, and the bridge designed adapted. Sounds great, right? Wrong. When the bridge was completed, final inspections were made, only to find that adaptation of the bridge caused it to be a little over an inch too low over the tracks. The only solutions available were to lower the tracks beneath the bridge of figure out a way to raise the bridge above the minimum clearance requirement. Ouch. An oversight that would have likely been remedied had the ADA compliance portion of the bridge been incorporated from the start, yes? Expensive, indeed.

Lastly, I'll leave you with some reasources that were provided that I thought were pretty cool and intend to explore more. Hope you had a good Global Accessibility Awareness Day!