May 20, 2021 is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (it’s actually the 10th anniversary since it launched off a single blog post). The pandemic has shown how technology can be both a barrier and a gateway for users with a hearing, visual, mobility or cognitive disability.
This month offers an opportunity to take a look back at how our systems supporting work, education, healthcare and government adapted. From a practical perspective, making sites accessible for the approximately 25% of citizens with disabilities around the globe not only makes good business sense but is the right thing to do. Here are crucial things you need to know about accessibility compliance.
Designing your website and digital channels for accessibility involves 61 different features that relate to website content being made accessible to a person with impairment. Examples include ARIA tags, ALT text labels, and text with certain measures of contrast to make it more readable. There are free tools such as the Google Lighthouse and the WAVE tool from AIM that can review your website and flag potential problems.
Followers of Microassist know we spend a lot of time discussing accessibility standards and guidelines, like WCAG (the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). You can also be certain we will continue to spend time talking about the WCAG 2.2 updates under consideration for later this year. We also understand, for those beginning their digital accessibility journey, the sheer volume of standards and guidelines can be overwhelming. That is why efforts like Global Awareness Accessibility Day offers a chance to share some beginning steps to help guide the way and get your started.
Whatever role you play for your organization, be it business owner, training manager, digital designer, marketer or something else, there are some simple steps you can take today to grow your understanding about accessibility.
Tools for checking accessibility of your content
Some steps you can take to begin checking if your website or digital content include
- Using web page analyzers and color contrast checkers;
- Check PDF documents using tools such as Adobe’s Accessibility Checker or PAC3 from Accessibility for All.
- Word documents and PowerPoint presentations can be analyzed using Microsoft Office’s internal accessibility checker.
Explore the accessibility features of your tech stack
Many learning management systems have internal accessibility tools built in. Canvas’s Rich Content Editor has an accessibility checker built in; Blackboard has Ally, which gauges the accessibility of content; Moodle’s text editor has a built-in accessibility checker. For social media, While these automated checkers may not catch all accessibility errors, they offer a good starting point.
Learn a new accessibility skill
Each year, the number of webinars and training resources offered around GAAD seems to grow. If you miss out on the events, our own Jack McElaney’s weekly Accessibility in the News regularly features accessibility training and meetings throughout the year.
Some favorites we bookmark include:
- Upcoming IAAP Webinars – Digital Accessibility
- Training Resources from the Web Accessibility Initiative at W3C
- Adobe Celebrates Global Accessibility Awareness Day
Of course, Microassist also offers a growing portfolio of accessibility training courses, including: Introduction to Accessibility, PDF Accessibility Fundamentals, and our soon to be released on demand course on evaluating accessibility when buying technology, Understanding the VPAT Analysis and Determination Process.
Evaluate accessibility when buying technology
At one time considered just to be the realm of procurement and accessibility specialists in government and education, increasingly corporations and other organizations are extending their policies and culture around accessibility and inclusion to include their purchasing process and policies that govern accessibility requirements for new technology investments. Understanding the role of accessibility in procurement and evaluation tools like the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, or VPAT, is one more way to raise accessibility awareness across your organization.
Making knowledge accessible, year round
Whatever stage you are at in your accessibility journey, the team at Microassist can help be a guide toward barrier-free development, empowering people of all abilities to access your services with ease.