Accessibility Awareness Begins at Home

Tarveen Kaur May 14, 2019
Yes, a single individual can make a huge difference to the world. This has been repeatedly proved by the greats but even ordinary people, making the right choices in their everyday lives have the same power. Take the annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), launched in 2012, inspired by a single article written by Jon Devon, a web developer based in Los Angeles. Today, GAAD is in its seventh year and has become a keystone event in an effort to create digital accessibility and inclusion. Around 15% of the world’s population, which totals a whopping one billion people, experience some form of disability, says the latest World Bank report on Disability Inclusion. It has been an uphill battle, fought over decades, to lower the barriers to complete economic and social inclusion of people with disabilities. Now, we fight a whole new battle of making assistive technologies and devices accessible. After all, when advances in technology are making life easier for the world, should they do the same for people who are differently abled? We believe that the first step to digital accessibility is to foster sensitivity and awareness in what we do every day. Hence, accessibility awareness should begin at home. And, this is something we’ve believed in and implemented within our workplace and teams for some time now. We share our experiences with you in the hopes that it offers opportunities for mutual learning and growth.   Sensitivity Comes Through Experience The most effective way to help someone understand what another is going through is by walking a mile in their shoes. This is exactly what we do for our team. For instance, to sensitize and create awareness regarding digital accessibility for the visually impaired, we had a week where different team members would experience how people with visual difficulties accessed digital information and communication. For this, some chose to go mouse-less for certain times of the day, while some others used screen readers to access the digital content.     The various digital accessibility experiences were then discussed within the team. What this brought forward was not just the need to work on innovative solutions for enhanced access, but also identifying areas that need greater attention to make the entire experience more satisfying. Our aim was to empower people with disabilities to be able to not just consume content but to also create and share their own content.   Awareness through Diversity A lot has been said about diversity in the workplace. However, most debates end at diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, and religion. We implemented a different type of diversity. Our design and testing teams consist of differently abled team members. When such diverse teams collaborate, what we were able to achieve is fully accessible digital solutions.     In addition, the testing team ensured that these solutions were user-friendly for a wide range of disabilities. We’re proud to have 200+ accessibility trained engineers on our team.   Solutions Need to be Born Accessible Our efforts at creating awareness and sensitivity towards the needs of differently abled people have taught us that only when we start the conceptualization and design process with accessibility in mind can we create true digital accessibility. For this, we ask differently abled users to provide inputs during the design process. This ensures that we have the perspective of the actual end users right from the start. In addition, our diverse teams offer help in redesigning legacy content and platforms to enhance accessibility, with detailed rationale and recommendations on why a design change is required and how this would impact and help achieve compliance level.   Awareness is a Process Advances in technology move at such a rapid pace that staying abreast of all the latest developments requires continuous learning. The same is true for accessibility, given that each new advancement opens up doors to create different accessibility solutions. For this, we encourage our teams to set aside time to learn about new stuff in accessibility, we have created an Accessibility academy to help people understand and build expertise in making accessible solutions. When we spend time to actually experience such features ourselves, we are able to conceptualize solutions that can make the most of these functionalities fully accessible and complaint. In addition, there is a variety of software tools that can help, such as text-to-speech, Braille device, Touchpad, Joystick, Trackball, Dragon speech, Zoom magnification tools, etc. Each week, we set aside time to discover how one such tool works and how it can be used to enhance digital accessibility. Our group discussions offer a great space for collaborative learning and solution seeking. As we said right at the start, awareness has to begin from home. And, our mission statement highlights this, given that our objective is to create solutions that are Accessible, Affordable and Sustainable. It has been this commitment that has helped us achieve accessibility competence and 100% compliance with existing guidelines, such as the ADA, WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1.

Tarveen Kaur

Accessibility Practice Lead at Magic EdTech, Tarveen is actively engaged in building new class digital accessibility solutions for education.