May 16 is Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Global Accessibility Awareness Day is an annual event to get everyone talking, thinking, and learning about digital access and inclusion.

Two hands holding a tablet. In the background there is a laptop on a table.

For most of us, it’s hard to imagine life without the internet. We use it for virtually everything, from shopping to working, communicating, reading the news, and looking up directions.  


However, barriers can keep people with disabilities from being able to access websites and apps. Something as seemingly insignificant as using light gray text on a white background can make it extremely difficult for some users to read and interact with the information.  


Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which is celebrated on the third Thursday of May, aims to bring attention to common web accessibility issues like these and make the internet more inclusive for everyone. In this article, we’ll share some ways that you can participate in Global Accessibility Awareness Day, whether you’re a web developer or just a casual internet user. But first, let’s look at how this day came to be.  

History of Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Global Accessibility Awareness Day has been an annual event for just over a decade. It was inspired by a blog post about accessibility written by a web developer named Joe Devon.  


In the post, Joe floated the idea of a Global Accessibility Day. It would be “a day of the year where web developers across the globe try to raise awareness and know-how on making sites accessible.”  


After discovering the post, accessibility professor Jennison Asuncion reached out to Joe about making his idea of a Global Accessibility Day a reality — and the rest is history.  


That was 2011. Today, Global Accessibility Awareness Day has become a worldwide event where thousands of web developers and accessibility experts come together to share best practices, learn from each other, and explore ways to make the web more inclusive.  


Still, we have a long way to go. More than 98% of website home pages have accessibility issues, according to WebAIM. The most common issues include low contrast text, missing image alt text, empty links, and missing input form labels — all of which can make it difficult or impossible for individuals with disabilities to navigate the site.  

5 Ways to Recognize Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Looking for some ideas to learn about accessibility and help raise awareness of this important issue? Here are a few ideas:  

1. Learn about accessibility

Even if you’re pretty tech-savvy, you might not be familiar with the idea of web accessibility. Fortunately, there are lots of great resources to learn more about this topic. This 60-second video will give you a quick rundown on what accessibility is and why it’s important. Meanwhile, tech professionals might want to dive deeper with this free course from the University of Illinois on accessibility and inclusive design.  

2. Test your website with an accessibility tool

Do you have a website? If so, you’ll want to run it through an accessibility tool. These tools will help to identify accessibility issues and show you how to fix them. The SETWorks team used the WAVE tool, which is available for free, to test and improve the page you’re currently viewing. 

3. Contact organizations about inaccessible websites

If you come across a website with major accessibility barriers, you may want to let the organization know. Many website owners are not even aware that their website has accessibility issues. Or, they may not understand why accessibility is so important. Your feedback can help them make their website more accessible and inclusive for all. WC3 has some sample emails you can adapt for your use.  

4. Make your virtual meetings more accessible

Before you host your next virtual meeting or event, take some simple steps to make it more accessible. WC3 has a free accessibility checklist for meetings, conferences, and events. For example, you might turn on live captions for your Zoom meeting. Or you could describe visual information out loud, such as text and graphics on slides or what is happening during the meeting.  


Watch the introduction of the video below to see how SETWorks’ Kirstie MacArthur introduces herself and describes her environment for our change management webinar:  

Kirstie: “I am a female in my early 30s. I’ve got long brown hair, I’m wearing glasses, I have a blue lace shirt on, and I have an orange background.” 

5. Get people with disabilities involved in tech

To truly make technology more accessible, we need more representation for individuals with disabilities in the IT field. Some companies like Microsoft and SAP are doing this already through neurodiversity hiring programs. In addition to raising awareness for these programs, we can also promote careers in tech by working to get digital devices into the hands of individuals with disabilities, and advocating for digital literacy in school curriculum and transition plans.  

Download the free Disability Events calendar

Every effort counts in the fight for accessibility. Individual acts, such as making a few tweaks to your website or turning on captions for a Zoom meeting, might seem small — but collectively they make a difference. For more disability-related events and observances you can participate in all year, download our free Disability Events Calendar. 

Free Resource: 2024 Disability Events Calendar
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