What Global Accessibility Awareness Day means to me
- Posted on May 18, 2022
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
On May 19, millions of people around the world celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). As there are more than 1 billion people with disabilities and impairments, we want GAAD to encourage conversation, reflection, and education about digital access and inclusion. At Avanade, as digital innovators, we aim to disrupt the culture of technology and digital product development to include accessibility as a core requirement.
We asked three different people at Avanade to share their perspective on the day.
Accessibility is our responsibilityOne of Avanade’s core values is that we believe everyone counts. For me, that means the technology we design, develop, implement and operate should work for everyone as much as possible. There are obvious business benefits for our clients in that accessible tech makes them better at attracting and retaining customers as well as employees. But much more importantly, I see making the power of technology more accessible to everyone is part of our commitment to being a responsible business.
Accessibility is one of the key considerations I built into our Digital Ethics Assessment Framework, which we use to evaluate all kinds of technologies that we develop for and with our clients. So in the same way we consider issues related to privacy, physical safety, mental health, environmental impact, etc., we work to eliminate potential gaps in accessibility and at the same time highlight where we’ve done especially well with accessibility features.
My vision is that accessibility reflects an inherent thoughtfulness in the design and development of technology with respect to all the different people who will interact with it. This means that regardless of an individual’s abilities, they can engage with technology for work, pleasure, politics, social interaction, or any other purpose without having to ask for special accommodations.
—Chris McClean , Global Lead, Digital Ethics
Accommodation through innovation
Have you ever felt left out of something? I don’t think it’s a feeling anyone enjoys. When things are inaccessible, people don’t just miss out on something fun, they can also miss out on fundamental things such as access to healthcare, education, employment, means of communication, and more. This can often widen existing divides in society, with those who are already disadvantaged likely to become more so. Learning about accessibility has really opened my eyes to the many ways we can be more inclusive for those around us and ensure everyone has the same access to, and enjoyment of, all resources, spaces, and experiences.
To me, accessibility is accommodating all these individual experiences and needs, allowing everyone to be comfortable, present, and their genuine selves. I have found that accessibility often goes beyond disabilities and impairments, and that being inclusive and accommodating generally benefits everyone. On a more personal level, I’ve also seen accessibility described as a “love language” – a way to show our friends, colleagues, or strangers in our community that we care about them and their wellbeing.
At Avanade we speak a lot about being your full, authentic self. When people can be themselves, they can be more comfortable, productive, and it can improve wellbeing. It also encourages more diverse opinions to be shared openly and for those opinions to be listened to, which can drive innovation and disrupt the status quo. I believe improving accessibility is a part of this aspiration.
My best advice is to assume nothing. Disabilities vary so much and can be experienced so differently by each person that you can’t assume what someone’s experience will be. Always be open to learning and hearing about new points of view and actively seek out perspectives and experiences that challenge what you already know. See these as new opportunities in a design space, allowing you to refine and improve your design or code to make it better. Always be prepared to iterate and accommodate.
—Emma Holliday , Consultant, Front-End Development
Making an impact for clients
Over the years, from the perspective of the general public, I have seen accessibility evolve from "the great unknown" to "the great forgotten" to the "responsible commodity," but we have not yet gained the ground of the "decisive added value." GAAD is a tool, a loudspeaker to remind us that as we walk, we solve problems, and that the path is the goal.
Accessibility is a priority for Microsoft, a subject in which it is a leader, so the entire partner network must align. At Avanade, we use all our talent and expertise to take advantage of the opportunities that technology gives us, in order to create a better world – a more sustainable and inclusive one.
In the Digital Studio, we are very interested in continuing to devise solutions where AI is the catalyst to help people and the planet. I had the opportunity to work on a beautiful project developing the digital inclusion strategy of a large Italian bank. I also worked in a company where accessibility and inclusive design is the focus. There, I came up with and implemented inclusive design, and the solutions were co-created with the users. Seeing these initiatives in action and their real impact on people makes a big difference. You live it intensely in a very real way.
—Toni Closa Llorens , Digital Studio Lead