2023 marks another year of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), which will be held on May 18. From its humble and unexpected origins in 2011, GAAD has endured as one of the leading events in accessibility advocacy and awareness for individuals across a broad spectrum of ability levels.
GAAD’s mission is to inform the world of the importance of accessibility across digital platforms. GAAD seeks to encourage developers, designers, and content creators to embrace and prioritize accessibility as a vital aspect of their work. As we’ve said time and time again, it’s the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.
In this piece, we will provide a brief history of GAAAD and talk about how its celebrations have evolved and continue to influence the world of accessibility.
Origins of GAAD
GAAD started in 2011 with a single blog post written by eventual GAAD co-founder Joe Devon.
Devon, a prolific entrepreneur, had significant experience in media and communications in the years leading up to this post. Devon’s credentials include working with the Fox network as a consultant for hit shows like American Idol.
In a panel for T12T, Devon relates how he first got interested in accessibility when he first saw a screen reader demonstration that opened his eyes to the possibilities of accommodating technology. Newly enlightened, he began to feel a sense of frustration with the missed accessibility opportunities that he saw everywhere. In particular, Devon recounts an incident where his elderly father could not access support at his bank.
In 2011, Devon wrote a blog post, CHALLENGE: Accessibility know-how needs to go mainstream with developers. NOW.
In the post, Devon laments the underappreciation of accessibility among web developers. He goes so far as to chastise himself for his ignorance on such an important subject. Devon writes, “let’s agree on a Global Accessibility Awareness Day…where web developers across the globe try to raise awareness and know-how on making sites accessible.”
Not long after Devon published the post, Jennison Asuncion discovered it on Twitter. Asuncion is an accessibility advocate based out of Canada. After stumbling across the blog post, he contacted Devon to see if he could make this idea a reality.
Combining their extensive professional networks, Devon and Jennison accumulated the necessary resources to launch the first GAAD in 2012. Since that initial blog post, Joe Devon and Jennison Asuncion’s shared vision has been a successful reality for over a decade.
How is GAAD celebrated?
Various events are held to celebrate GAAD, including virtual seminars, in-person conferences, and concerts.
The archive of events listed on the GAAD website shows how its celebrations have evolved over the years.
In the early years, GAAD consisted of localized conferences and events spread on Twitter through digital word of mouth. Twitter has been among the best ways to spread GAAD’s message and events.
As the event grew, so to did the scope of the celebrations. In 2017, tech giant Apple launched a series of campaign efforts to raise GAAD awareness. These included the “Designed for Everyone” video series. These videos were posted to Apple’s youtube channel and detailed how the accessibility helped the experience of its customers.
In 2017 Apple also celebrated by putting on a Stevie Wonder concert near its headquarters. Wonder, who has been blind since birth, has had a history of praising Apple’s commitment to accessibility.
This year’s GAAD events consist of several virtual conferences dealing with brainstorming ways to maintain accessibility in digital spaces. Various locations are used to host the events, including the United States, Britain, Nigeria, and others.
An in-person event is also being held in Albania this year. The event, it4all, discusses accessibility ideas in the world of e-commerce.
Impact of GAAD
In an article covering GAAD 2022, Accessibility contributor Jaz Joyner writes, “Devon highlights major tech companies like Amazon making strides like extending GAAD into a one-month internal program.”
The impact of celebrations like GAAD is that they help to bring accessibility into the day-to-day operations of a business. The first step of making any accessibility progress is to spread awareness of what accessibility is and who its for.
Accessibility is for everyone and should be considered by everyone. GAAD helps to highlight this. The fact that so many high-profile companies are embracing GAAD shows that it continues accomplishing its mission.
How to get involved in GAAD
There are several ways to join in on the GAAD festivities. According to the GAAD website, one of the best ways for developers to get involved in the celebration is to make active accessibility efforts, such as writing transcripts for a video (even if it isn’t your own) or making a video demonstrating how to use assistive technology.
Another way to get involved is to spread GAAD awareness in the days leading up to GAAD. This can be done by sharing posts on social media platforms like Twitter. Hopeful participants can also write blog posts promoting the ideas of GAAD and digital accessibility.
Whatever the method, getting as many people involved as possible is the best way to ensure a successful Global Accessibility Awareness Day.