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    Industry Experts Explain What Digital Accessibility Means to Them

    by UsableNet
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    Today is the third Thursday in May and we know what that means - Happy Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)!

    GAAD is a globally celebrated event that brings attention to the topics of digital access and inclusion for the one billion people worldwide who live with disabilities.

    Because the purpose of GAAD is to get everyone talking, thinking, and learning about digital access and inclusion, UsableNet gathered voices from different areas of the accessibility community and experts in ADA litigation and asked the same question, "What does digital accessibility awareness mean to you?" 

    We're pleased to share the responses here. Thank you to everyone that sent in videos! 

    What is Digital Accessibility Awareness?

    Nonprofits Answer

    The nonprofit sector of business is overflowing with passionate, empathetic organizations that work hard to promote diversity and equity, supporting the disabled community among many other minority groups. UsableNet contacted executives from two nonprofit businesses that we believe are making positive changes in the world of digital inclusion.

    Michael Caprara, CIO at The Viscardi Center

    Alt text: Michael Caprara, CIO at The Viscardi Center

    Michael Caprara describes digital accessibility as an opportunity for businesses to ensure inclusiveness, job employment, and the ease of accessible options. He also specifically points out the importance of offering accessible video formats.

    "Digital accessibility is important for job employment, it’s important for inclusiveness throughout an organization, and, quite frankly, it shows better business."

    Joseph DiNero, Assistive Technology Specialist at Helen Keller Services for the Blind

    Alt-text: Joseph DiNero, Assistive Technology Specialist at Helen Keller Services for the Blind

    As an everyday user of assistive technology and an Assistive Technology Specialist in his role at Helen Keller Services for the Blind, Joseph DiNero spoke about the awareness of digital accessibility brought on by the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    For Joe and millions of others, it's essential that digital accessibility becomes a part of the everyday conversation for companies. 

    "I'd love to see this awareness, not lose its momentum."

    What is Digital Accessibility Awareness? ADA Attorneys Answer. 

    UsableNet is often cited for its full-year reports on Digital ADA Lawsuits and we are grateful for the many ADA lawyers that generously share their legal expertise with us and our clients.

    We reached out to two experienced attorneys that specialize in ADA defense for their perspectives on digital accessibility. 

    Kara Hilburger, ESQ, Digital Accessibility Practice Group Leader at Beckage

    Alt-text: Kara Hilburger, ESQ, Digital Accessibility Practice Group Leader at Beckage

    In her response, Kara Hilburger discusses the increasing trends in digital ADA compliance lawsuits and tips on how to prioritize digital accessibility and how to take a holistic approach to digital accessibility by building your accessibility infrastructure into your data security and privacy
    infrastructure. Kara explains why it's wise for businesses to take a
    top-down enterprise approach to minimize legal risk and maximize the use of digital assets. She also shared her hopes for the future. 

    "I do think we are hopefully moving in the direction of a federal law that would hope to level the landscape and not only prioritize accessibility, but help to set a foundation for what the requirements are."

    Richard Hunt, Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer at Hunt Huey PLLC

    Alt-text: Richard Hunt, Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer at Hunt Huey PLLC

    For Richard Hunt, it’s been rewarding to witness the profound changes and the blossoming awareness of digital accessibility in the business world. He identifies the three elements of digital accessibility as the following: Knowing that it is possible, seeing it as an opportunity, and understanding that the cost is not unreasonable.

    When identifying the business case for digital accessibility, Richard affirms, "It’s not something for the future, it is today for businesses to take advantage of.”

    “What does drive awareness of digital accessibility is understanding that it is possible, seeing it as an opportunity, and knowing that it is an opportunity that can be realized at a reasonable cost. The possibility, opportunity, and the reasonableness of the cost are what, in my opinion, constitute awareness of digital accessibility.”

    What is Digital Accessibility Awareness? Advocates in the Corporate world Answer. 

    Digital accessibility advocates working within corporations help their employers realize the importance of creating and maintaining inclusive, digital experiences.

    UsableNet is thrilled to share a personal account from Sheri Byrne-Haber, a prominent global subject matter expert in disability and accessibility. Sheri has launched digital accessibility programs at multiple Fortune 200 companies, including McDonald’s, Albertsons, and VMware.

    Sheri Byrne-Haber, Accessibility Leader

    Alt-text: Sheri Byrne-Haber, Accessibility Leader

    While Sheri establishes her place within the disability community, she used today’s GAAD event as an opportunity to reflect on digital accessibility through a maternal lens. As the mother of a daughter with severe hearing loss, Sheri was heartbroken to watch the effect that disability had on her daughter’s self-view.

    Sheri narrated the impactful story of her Chinese-born middle daughter who, after losing the ability to understand Mandarin because of her hearing loss, switched her primary ethnicity identification on her school forms from Chinese to Caucasian. When her daughter was able to obtain high-quality hearing aids, she was able to hear the nuances in the Mandarin language, and she ultimately switched her primary identity back to Chinese. For Sheri, digital accessibility is more than a concept; she states, "It's identity. It's life. It's everything."

    "When you don’t make your websites accessible, you’re telling me that you’re not interested in my business and that you don’t care about my daughter. I’ll go to a competitor who does care and I’ll make sure all of my friends and colleagues know that."

    Sam Dancey, Global Accessibility Practice Lead at TTC Global

    Alt-text: Sam Dancey, Global Accessibility Practice Lead at TTC Global

    Samantha Dancey is a passionate advocate and leader in the accessibility, diversity, and inclusion community in Australia. Sam works as Global Accessibility Practice Lead at TTC, a company that has partnered with UsableNet to bring an established and comprehensive end-to-end service offering to Australia and New Zealand for digital accessibility.

    When asked about digital accessibility awareness, Sam calls it "that light bulb moment."

    It's when where an employer, organization, service provider, or product designer/developer realizes the impact of their work, of their decisions, their designs, and the processes that they create and they realize that this has an impact on the experience of people.

    Elisa Lewis, Content Marketing Manager at 3PlayMedia

    Alt-text: Elisa Lewis, Content Marketing Manager at 3PlayMedia

    Accessibility for video has become a hot topic in recent months with the increase in ADA lawsuits for video accessibility. We reached out to 3Play Media who helps thousands of companies make their video content accessible to hear their take on digital accessibility awareness. 

    Elisa Lewis, Content Marketing Manager, responded with an urge for companies to move beyond thinking about compliance and instead think about leaving none of the more than 1 billion people worldwide that have disabilities behind. 

    "Digital accessibility is making sure that no one is left behind. It's reminding people that accessibility benefits everyone, not just those who have a disability and it makes your content that much better and makes the user experience better for everyone. Digital accessibility awareness is moving away from simply thinking about compliance and instead of thinking about access opportunity and experience.

    What is Digital Accessibility Awareness to you?

    Have we gotten everyone talking, thinking, and learning about digital access and inclusion? At UsableNet, we like to think that we do that every day! With our technology and digital accessibility support services, the UsableNet accessibility experts work to help our clients with their digital accessibility initiatives to make the digital world a more inclusive place. 

    What does Digital Accessibility Awareness mean to you? Let us know on social media. 

    Look out for more responses to this question on digital accessibility awareness from our own UsableNet team in our second GAAD 2021 blog post!

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