May 18, 2023, marked Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). For those unfamiliar with GAAD, the day aims to have meaningful conversations on increasing accessibility, usability, and inclusion in the digital world. It's celebrated by companies, associations, and people throughout May. This year there was a lot of activity, announcements, and, most of all, conversations devoted to digital accessibility each GAAD. Before we end of the month of May, we’ve curated some of the top tech updates from GAAD 2023 to share with you.
Tech Giants Lead the Pack for Digital Accessibility
During GAAD 2023, many well-known companies made statements or updates about how they are involved with accessibility and their newest features. Below are some of the newest features unveiled this year.
“Accessibility is a fundamental right and route to innovation. Growing a culture of accessibility takes all pieces, from technology to skilling to partnership.”
Microsoft announced different accessibility initiatives, including ongoing accessibility support with their video games, the Office suite, and an update on their partnership with BeMyEyes, a smartphone app for those who are blind or have low vision that leverages AI to create meaningful, detailed descriptions. They also discuss diverse talent and how to create a better workplace for those with disabilities.
“At Apple, we’ve always believed that the best technology is technology built for everyone. Today, we’re excited to share incredible new features that build on our long history of making technology accessible so that everyone has the opportunity to create, communicate, and do what they love.”
Apple unveiled several upcoming accessibility features, including a detection mode that uses the camera to help identify physical, real-world objects, live speech that allows users to text what they want to say and have it read aloud in their voice, and a new assistive access feature that helps those with cognitive disabilities navigate apps better. Apple tests its features with the disability community often to see how they can improve their experiences and also offered informative sessions around accessibility in some of their on-site locations.
“With these new accessibility features, Google aims to empower individuals with disabilities and promote inclusivity across its platforms and services.”
Google celebrated GAAD by releasing updates to their existing live captioning feature, extending the capability to tablets and adding the ability to type out responses that will then be read aloud on the device sent to, making the google maps accessibility icon bigger to make it easier to see accessible places and text-to-speech improvements for wearOS 3 and 4. In addition, Google is adding a Q&A feature in Lookout, which aims to identify and describe images with alt-text and allows the user to ask questions about the image.
“Disney and ESPN technologists, working in partnership with programming and business teams at ESPN and ABC, developed and implemented an innovative, scalable, and cost-effective way to bring highly accurate, real-time speech-to-text captioning to live programming. The result is a dramatically increased scale of live captioned content.”
Disney and ESPN are bringing their Real-Time Automated Speech Recognition (ASR) to more of their programming. This will Improve captions for real-time events like sports, live TV, and News. Of their events captioned using ASR in the past year, they have seen a 97% caption accuracy rate.
“There is more work to do, and our teams are working tirelessly to onboard even more accessibility-friendly listings and continue improving the travel experience for guests with disabilities and accessibility needs.” - Catherine Powell, Global Head of Hosting at Airbnb
AirBNB's Accessibility Review has verified the accessibility features of almost 300,000 homes globally and updated their search features to add an adapted category with listings that meet certain accessibility criteria and have a 2D floor plan so guests can see the layout before staying.
“While we’ve made strides in accessibility, we know there is always more work to be done. Leveraging member feedback to improve the viewing experience for one member living with a disability makes it better for all of us. At Netflix, we strive to make our service more accessible and inclusive for everyone — no matter who you are, where you live, and what you love to watch.“
Netflix recaps how they’re actively looking to improve accessibility, including their continuing efforts to expand audio descriptions and subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing to their shows, adding more subtitles for different languages, and continued asking for feedback from those in the disability community.
“As we recognize Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Samsung is committed to helping those who are hard of hearing better enjoy the sounds of the world around them with the introduction of new enhanced Ambient Sound.”
Samsung promoted newer levels of their ambient sound feature, making it five total levels. This aims to improve communication for those with mild to moderate hearing loss. Their clinical trial saw an improvement in speech perception.
How can more companies adopt digital accessibility initiatives?
If you want to move the needle on accessibility at your own company. Critical components of a strong accessibility program are company culture, commitment, and putting in place processes that prioritize accessibility. At UsableNet, and in the accessibility community, we often talk about seeking feedback from people with disabilities and keeping accessibility in mind throughout their product lifecycle.
But how do companies get started? Check out our Webinar ‘How to Create a Culture of Digital Accessibility.’ Speaker Jeff Adams, Director of Accessibility, highlights the important things your company can do to stay aligned with your accessibility goals and integrate them into your brand’s DNA. Watch the Webinar Here.