Skip to content

Raising Awareness of Digital A11Y

  • April 22, 2022

The 11th annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is on Thursday, May 19, 2022.

"The purpose of GAAD is to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion, and the more than One Billion people with disabilities/impairments." - GAAD

When you visit the GAAD website, you will find a page titled "Participate" which is full of ideas and suggestions on how you and your organization can help spread the word about digital access and inclusion. Under the heading "Participate Directly" is a list item that suggests "Write a blog post on what digital accessibility awareness is and what your (the writer’s) ideas are for raising that awareness."

For this year’s GAAD, DubBot’s own Blaine Herman and Penny Kronz discuss how they got involved in the accessibility field and what they consider to be digital accessibility awareness, and what they do to help raise that awareness.

Take it away, Blaine!

How and when did you get started in the accessibility field?

Before DubBot, I worked with a content management vendor (Hannon Hill) that largely specializes in working with higher education. During my almost 15 years there I worked with dozens of different institutions on accessibility projects. It was during those projects that I was able to get real exposure to people that were passionate about accessibility. 

What do you find to be the most challenging part about working in the a11y field?

I think the most challenging part has to be that the work really is never done. That isn’t really an easy concept for people that are just getting to know what accessibility is. Websites never stop changing, which means that one’s work is never really done. "Accessibility" is also different for different types of people, whether they are color blind, have limited vision, or have no vision.   

How would you define digital accessibility awareness and what do you currently do or what ideas do you have to go about raising that awareness?

I think of digital accessibility awareness as the desire to do more than checkboxes. Awareness is the recognition that you really do want to include all people and that you strive to make it possible.

And now, let's hear from Penny.

How and when did you get started in the accessibility field?

It's hard to pinpoint an exact timeframe. I've always been interested in user experiences with technology. I majored in Science, Technology, and Culture and specialized in media studies at Georgia Tech. In general, I have considered accessibility as being a component of user experience.

I've joked that my part-time job was providing IT support to my grandparents. Through my experience helping them navigate different technologies, I became more empathetic to barriers and challenges that seemed to be presented to people trying to navigate unfamiliar technology with so much in life becoming digitized. The thing that I found most compelling was that my grandparents were both technically accomplished in their careers but as they aged, it seemed that some things that they needed to do were made unnecessarily technical.

Sometime around 2010, I was working with long-term clients who were going through redesigns with their websites. Many scoped accessibility as a priority because of policy and some because of complaints received and needed to show action had been taken. In this need to help clients, I started researching and learning more about accessibility and the web.

I did my first presentation about accessibility at HighEdWeb Canada in Vancouver in 2013 so my official guesstimate for web accessibility would be 2010.

What do you find to be the most challenging part about working in the a11y field?

Color schemes of brands that just aren’t going to be accessible? Just kidding. It’s in that same vein though. I get frustrated with the pushback that I get on reported issues. I am happy to explain why certain issues are reported and why they would present a barrier. I love brainstorming solutions and engaging people with usable information.

But I get frustrated if I know that someone understands the accessibility issue and then pushes for me to accept the wrong way of doing something. I once had someone tell me that they weren’t going to be able to change their website link colors because it was simply a part of their brand scheme. I understood that the issue, the required change was something that they would need approval from someone else for. I empathize with that conversation that they were not wanting to have internally. But I can’t change the standards and I don’t like being pressured into accepting that something that breaks a standard simply cannot be changed.

How would you define digital accessibility awareness and what do you currently do or what ideas do you have to go about raising that awareness?

I think most people live in bubbles. Some bubbles are bigger than others. To me, digital accessibility awareness is expanding our bubble to better understand how other people interact with the digital world. I think that it is important to actually listen and try to understand the challenges that people experience. 

Many thanks to Blaine and Penny for sharing your experiences in digital accessibility and your thoughts and calls to action in raising awareness of digital accessibility.

If you and/or your organization are ready to help spread the word about digital accessibility, check out the GAAD website and find out the ways you can participate in getting "everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion."

Maggie Vaughan, CPACC
~ friend of DubBot, A11Y practitioner in higher ed