Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day

web accessibility printed braille

Are the sites and apps you design accessible by people with visual, auditory, physical or other disabilities? Accessibility is an often overlooked component of the web design process, but there’s no reason that innovation can’t go hand in hand with accessibility.

Today, May 9, is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, a grassroots effort to encourage developers and designers to embrace making their work and products available to the widest audience possible. 

Here are a few tips for taking part in accessibility awareness day and expanding your horizons: 

Go mouseless for an hour

Unplug your mouse and only use your keyboard (tab/shift tab, arrow keys, enter and spacebar) to navigate and interact with your favorite websites and applications. Developers and designers, visit a site you were involved in creating and take it for a test-drive.

Surf the web with a screen reader for an hour

There are a number of free/open source screen readers available for Windows users. One of the more popular ones is NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA). Mac users, you have a built-in screen reader called VoiceOver on your systems. 

On May 9, unplug your mouse (blind users do not use the mouse), launch your screen reader, and spend an hour using some of your favorite sites strictly using the keyboard alone (tab/shift tab, arrow keys, enter and spacebar) and not the mouse/trackpad. Try turning off your screen and depending strictly on the information conveyed by the screen reader.

Try out mobile accessibility features

Windows 7 has a number of built-in accessibility features, as does the Mac OSiPhoneAndroid and BlackBerry devices also have accessibility features. Take an hour to explore what these are and try them out on the web. Try using some of your favorite apps with different accessibility features enabled.

Keep up with events and accessibility advice on Twitter: @gbla11yday and @a11ymedia. And be sure to check out this great article in the Atlantic about how the blind are reinventing the iPhone

Heads up: The HOW Interactive Design Conference event in Washington, DC, will have a session on accessible design presented by Rajesh Lal of Nokia Silicon Valley.

Braille sheet image by Karola Riegler

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