10th Celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day

On May 20th, we celebrate the 10th Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). Over the course of the next week, New Editions will release daily blogs created by our staff highlighting different perspectives of accessibility, including the benefits of an accessible work environment, dos and don’ts for delivering an inclusive presentation, accessibility training tips and options, the benefit of a playbook for an accessibility program, automated tools, and highlights of how accessibility consulting can help your project/team be more successful.

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.” I wanted to reflect on this as you may be saying, wait, why are we still thinking about accessibility? It’s the law! It’s required! It’s the right thing to do! We have standards to follow! We have testing tools! Haven’t we moved past this and on to implementation?

New Editions recently did an internal presentation on the global accessibility law to help disseminate information to staff members preparing for a certification exam. What struck me is that the majority of the laws were passed recently. Internationally, human rights laws for people with disabilities began ratification in 1948 with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights followed by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2006 and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union in 2009. The Marrakesh Treaty was adopted in 2013. In the US, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990.

Procurement law, such as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, has been around longer, passed in 1973 and amended in 2017 to keep up with ever-evolving technology. The European Union published EN 301 549 in 2014, which adopts the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards. These two laws are the backbone of what we see as accessibility rules and regulations today and serve as the guideposts for what accessibility means.

Since 1973, technology has evolved so quickly that it’s hard to forecast what the next invention will be. But 2014 and 2017 for our current standards? What took so long? And why aren’t we farther along? Perhaps this is why we are still talking about it, and why there is a need for GAAD 10 years on. While the achievements made in a relativity short time have created tangible and lifechanging access for people with disabilities, there is still work to do (and as technology changes, there always will be). COVID-19 exposed more of the digital divide and inaccessible content, as we shifted online for shopping, healthcare, work, school, and social interaction. The gaps in terms of what could be easily accessed became glaring.

We hope this blog series sheds some light on what you, your team, or your company can try, implement, learn, and enact as we work towards building a more accessible future.