assistive tech digital accessibility

The ninth Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) has commenced, encouraging people across the world to address the need for digital accessibility for those with disabilities.

Held annually on third Thursday of May, GAAD was launched in 2012 as a means of raising awareness of digital access and inclusion for the more than one billion people with disabilities and impairments globally.

The day brings a wide range of assistive technology that enable people to interact with web and digital channels into the limelight, including screen readers, alternative input devices and more.

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This year’s GAAD takes place amidst the global coronavirus pandemic which has brought the issue of digital accessibility to the forefront.

Since the outbreak, many disabled people have turned to digital channels to help them remain social and access vital services, however, it has exposed how many websites, apps and other digital products remain inaccessible for those with disabilities.

According to a poll carried out by Scope in November 2019, many disabled people have been prevented or discouraging from completing an online transaction because of a lack of accessibility.

50 per cent of the 200 people surveyed reported not buying a product because of experiencing trouble with an app or website.

The three most common problems were difficult navigating the app or website (47 per cent), hard-to-complete Captcha puzzles (45 per cent), and challenging registration forms (34 per cent).

Most common accessibility failures

According to WebAIM Million Report, causes of most common accessibility failures including low contrast text (86 per cent), missing image alt text (66 per cent), empty links (60 per cent), missing form input labels (54 per cent), empty buttons (29 per cent) and missing document language (28 per cent).

Actions to overcome inaccessibility online

GAAD has outlined a number of steps that individuals and organisations can take to improve digital inclusion which are relatively easy to implement.

These include captioning a video that a company has created and published or creating a transcript for a video created by someone else and sending it to the owner with a request to add captions.

Alternatively, organisations can write a blog post on digital accessibility awareness and include ideas for raising awareness and improving accessibility.

Additionally, the GAAD website houses several tools and resources that can be accessed for free, including assistive technologies designed to help improve accessibility.

Government launches accessibility activities

Also participating in this year’s GAAD is the government, which has stated that accessibility is considered in all aspects of the Government Digital Service’s (GDS) work.

“Everyone must interact with government, there is no option to shop around for a different provider. This means it’s critical that we remove as many unnecessary obstacles as we can. Public sector organisations also have a legal duty to make sure websites and apps meet accessibility requirements,” states the government.

To celebrate the day, the government has also created a downloadable resources pack to help organisations promote and deliver digital accessibility training sessions for colleagues.

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