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Global Accessibility Awareness Day: Getting the Word Out

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Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. To mark the day and promote the goal of the day, groups of developers and designers interested in accessibility offer webinars, presentations, and networking events to interest and educate more people about why accessibility is important and how to address accessibility in web content, documents, and software. GAAD is a community-driven event, and engaging is a simple as visiting the GAAD web site, Facebook page, or Twitter feed and taking a few minutes to read an article that someone posts or joining a webinar to learn new techniques or get up to speed on current trends.

At A List Apart, we started this week by posting Andrew Hoffman’s new article, Accessibility, The Missing Ingredient. The article highlights techniques used to make an interactive shopping application and cart experience more accessible, and discusses how use of the W3C ARIA specification provides useful tools for a developer to use. Most articles about accessibility attract lots of passionate discussion, and this one is no different.

ARIA is a specification with support that is developing still, and there is often some measure of subjectivity in decisions related to accessibility and there is always variability in support offered by the mix of browser and assistive technology support for accessibility, so it’s helpful to see examples and talk about them.

Discussion about any accessibility topic is a good thing, and helps engage people who are new to the topic. While it can be intimidating to wade into discussions on accessibility and it’s true that the accessibility community can be quick to criticize, there’s so much value in these discussions—for participants and onlookers alike—that the signal makes a little noise worthwhile.

When I started on accessibility, my sometimes ignorant questions were met with welcoming advice and with dismissive remarks. I’m glad I focused on the former, and the many people interested in advancing accessibility who shared their knowledge, advice, and passion continue to help me develop my knowledge. Almost 15 years later, as a dyed-in-the-wool accessibility wonk myself, I need to continually remind myself that not everyone has worked on accessibility for as long as some of my colleagues but that there are a lot of people that are interested in helping make the web more accessible and as a community we need to pull them in, not push them away.

On Global Accessibility Awareness Day, I applaud the many efforts being made to expand the number of people who know about accessibility, as it’s a problem that can’t be solved without expanding our community. It’s a big web, and we need as many voices doing as much educating as they can. Whether you’re writing for yourself or submission page: let’s get the word out!

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