Today, Thursday, May 19, 2022, is the 11th Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)!
The purpose of GAAD is to get everyone talking, thinking, and learning about digital access and inclusion. This year, UsableNet asked 5 Professionals related to digital accessibility to share what digital accessibility means to them in 2022.
We hope these videos get everyone thinking and talking about what digital accessibility means and how it impacts you and the more than 1 billion people worldwide with disabilities.
A First-Hand Perspective on Digital Accessibility
To kick things off, we start with UsableNet 2022 Spring Intern, Lily Mordaunt. As someone with a visual impairment, Lily has a first-hand experience with digital accessibility. Accessibility and digital inclusion are fundamental to how Lily experiences the world.
Alt-text: Lily Mordaunt wearing a mask
Lily like many others, expects digital accessibility to continue to be important as the world grows more digital and increases its reliance on technology.
"Thinking about books, delivery apps, online shopping, there's a whole world out there
that I honestly wouldn't have access to or would have to rely on others for if there weren't
digital accessibility standards and if it wasn't prioritized. It's crazy for me to think about what the world was like a couple of decades ago, a century ago, without Braille being prevalent, without digital accessibility guidelines being prioritized. . . There's no way to overstate how important or beneficial digital accessibility is and will continue to be in my life, especially as the world continues to grow more and more digital."
Digital Accessibility and the Law
In 2022, digital accessibility is tied to ADA-based lawsuits. More than 4,000 lawsuits were filed last year that alleged websites or apps were inaccessible, and therefore a violation of the ADA.
In this environment, ADA attorneys have had to become versed in WCAG and digital accessibility. For that reason, we reached out to an experienced litigator who often writes and speaks on the ADA and digital accessibility laws for their perspective.
Charles "Chuck" Marion, Partner at Blank Rome
Alt-text: Charles "Chuck" Marion, Partner at Blank Rome, speaking to the camera
Charles (Chuck) Marion is a partner at the law firm of Blank Rome in Philadelphia. Blank Rome has a national practice advising and defending businesses whose physical locations, websites, or mobile apps have been accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and similar state and local statutes. Chuck regularly writes and speaks about digital accessibility, ADA, and web accessibility law.
Chuck speaks about digital accessibility as an opportunity. He also acknowledges the current frustrations many businesses face, given the surge of ADA-based digital accessibility lawsuits. In his experience, businesses want to serve customers of all abilities. Businesses want to "do the right thing" and provide their customers with an accessible website and accessible app experiences. According to him, digital accessibility is an opportunity for both businesses to reach more customers and customers to have better access.
"I represent businesses of all sizes. And for small businesses, while they all strive to make their websites as accessible as possible, there is a cost involved. Sometimes it's important to do it right. And I think we need the Congress, the Department of Justice, and or the courts to clarify further what businesses have to do to make their websites accessible."
Advocates for Digital Accessibility in the Business World
In the business world, companies like UsableNet and our partners collaborate with organizations to create and deliver more accessible and inclusive experiences for their customers with disabilities. Every day, advocates working within these companies educate and raise awareness for digital accessibility.
Kylie Pollock, Principal Accessibility Consultant at TTC Global
Alt-text: Kylie Pollock, Principal Accessibility Consultant at TTC Global
Kylie Pollock is a Principal Accessibility Consultant at TTC. Based in Australia. Kylie has over 15 years of experience in the software industry across multiple fields, both the private and public sectors. Kylie explains how digital accessibility is at its core about inclusion.
"Digital accessibility to me is all around inclusion, so that everyone can feel a sense of belonging within systems available in our virtual world, and that no one is intentionally excluded or overlooked. So I don't think many people would intentionally exclude people, but by not factoring into your designs, um you know, accessibility practices, um that's exactly what you're doing. And you would find that many people, regardless of whether they have a disability or are in a specific situation, won't interact with your products. So, accessibility is about building in those changes to ensure that we remove barriers that stop people from being able to interact with our systems and technologies, and allow people to live their best lives.
Cat Eshbaugh, Channel Relationship Manager, at 3PlayMedia
Alt-text: Cat Eshbaugh, Channel Relationships Manager at 3PlayMedia
In the past couple of years, we've seen an increase in ADA lawsuits for video accessibility. 3Play Media is committed to promoting accessibility and awareness for everyone and has helped thousands of companies make their video content accessible.
Cat Eshbaugh, Channel Relationship Manager, shares why digital accessibility means being proactive and taking the initiative to create a more inclusive experience for everyone.
What digital accessibility means to me is being proactive in making video and digital content inclusive to those who are blind or low vision, deaf or hard of hearing, or those with the language barrier. So those trying to access media not spoken or written in their native language. I think it's about going above and beyond the various standards and regulations, and to take initiative to help create web content inclusive to all the various communities. I also think about the way the world is becoming more and more digitized. We're on our phones and computers all day long and live a life through a screen. If we're not making this space accessible to those with disabilities, we're not creating an equal and opportunistic world.
Darcy Cotrell, Global Head of Account Management at UsableNet
Our final accessibility voice is from a leader here at UsableNet, Darcy Cotrell. Darcy talks about how we've arrived at a unique time for accessibility.
I think we're at a unique time where the combination of people understanding our society has evolved. And these are the right things to do, along with the understanding that all these enhancements improve the experience, and allow us to make an impact a great deal of change. At UsableNet, our mission is to continue to evangelize the value of this, and then to collaborate with our clients to help them understand how they can consistently evolve and improve the experience of their websites effectively and efficiently.
Darcy hopes everyone can take some time today, on Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and think about what you can do to improve the accessibility of the Web.
Consider Digital Accessibility Every day
We hope today's blog helps everyone who reads it think about how to improve digital accessibility in your business life, in the initiatives you prioritize, and in your personal life, when you post a picture or a video on social media.
Every day, but especially today on Global Accessibility Awareness Day, UsableNet is committed to bringing awareness to digital access and inclusion.
In 2022, what does Digital Accessibility mean to you? Let us know on social media.