Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is celebrated annually on the 3rd Thursday in May. What is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)? Well, it is a day to ensure that everyone is aware of having inclusive digital access for all disabled people, including those with impairments, which was launched 12 years ago. Nevertheless, we still need to get more people learning and talking about this and, most of all, creating digital content and platforms which are accessible.
Assistive technology allows blind or partially sighted people to access information on a range of devices, such as computers, laptops, tablets or smartphones. They allow for independence and give people the choice to shop, bank, use social media platforms, job search, plan and book travel or accommodation, and more. Being part of a WhatsApp or Facebook forum, is a good way to feel part of a community or group. It is a way in which people can learn and find out information they may be interested in and build a social network.
However, GAAD exists because there is a lack of understanding and awareness, including by individuals, charities and businesses who don’t make their content or platforms accessible. This could be due to the perception of it being too complicated or not relevant or important to do so. This impacts more than 2.5 million people living with a vision impairment, and further disabled people, who may have hearing loss or other conditions.
People often have a stereotypical view of a blind or partially sighted person, that they stay at home with their family who do everything for them; cook, clean, buy their clothes, and that the person with sight loss could not possibly be independent at all, or be confident in doing things for themselves. It is fantastic to see that this stereotypical view is changing, and we must continue having these conversations. We must continue to raise awareness in all ethnic minority communities, where disability and sight loss is a huge taboo.
Our Chair, Bhavini, shares how it is quite upsetting being part of a WhatsApp group where all participants are aware of her sight loss and where photos or gifs are shared, yet no description or caption is provided. You ask once, twice or even thrice but nothing. All that is required is a small sentence or two about what the image is, where it was taken, what can be seen in the background if it is of relevance, and a short description of what people are wearing or doing. “This can help massively towards making me feel part of the conversation and feel included”, said Bhavini.
So, what can you do to help people living with a vision impairment or other disabilities whilst helping yourself to be more inclusive, gain more customers and be more mindful of all of your audiences. Most importantly, how can you ensure that you are following the Equality Act 2010?
It is important to bear in mind you do not overuse emojis, whether it is part of your username, or in your post, as people who use screen readers have to listen to every single emoji that you have used. This is even before they have got to the main post. It is common practice to use around 2 at the end of a post.
You often see titles or headings of a post all in capital letters, but this actually reads out one letter at a time and if there a lot of words, it is difficult to understand what is being said.
However, capital letters are very useful when using hashtags, using a capital letter for the first letter of each word means that it will be accessible for people who use screen readers. This is called Camel Casing, so don’t forget Camel Casing on your hashtags, otherwise it becomes one very long word, and blind and partially sighted people will find it difficult to read.
Easy Read is very helpful to many people, such as those who are autistic, have learning disabilities or those who don’t speak or understand English fluently. So, keeping sentences short and using simple language will benefit your audiences more than one long paragraph with complicated words. This will just make the person reading scroll past, and miss out on what you had to say, sell or offer.
For an A to Z guide in supporting you to make your social media accessible, please check out this fantastic guide, put together by Holly, – “Life of A Blind Girl”
If you are taking the step in using voice over which works for IOS. devices, talk back for Android or Narrator for Google, then there are a few charities where you can get training and support for this. Take a look at the charities below.
Or why not see if there is a local society who provide support for blind and partially sighted people in your area. You may also find it useful asking your rehabilitation Officer, or Eye Care Liaison Officer.