May 21, 2020 marks nine years of recognizing Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), a day to consider how people with disabilities interact with technology and the digital environment.
Under the threat of a global pandemic, this digital environment has proven to be enabling for large numbers of people, allowing them to continue something like “normal life” under social distancing guidelines. Video conferencing and social media enable you to stay in touch with friends and family, telework platforms and electronic documents enable you to work from home, and online retailers and providers enable you to receive essential goods and services. Imagine what life under quarantine would be like without these technologies.
Unfortunately, too many people with disabilities don’t have to imagine a life without the connections, opportunities, and independence technology can bring. They live it every day.
Your video conferencing service doesn’t offer live captioning? Someone with hearing loss may find it difficult to stay in touch with distant relatives.
These electronic documents aren’t created with accessible text and text alternatives? Someone who is blind may not have the information they need to do their job.
That online shopping cart doesn’t identify input errors? Someone with hand tremors may not be able to buy groceries.
Far from enabling, inaccessible information and technology can isolate and limit people with disabilities—limiting their ability to make connections, to make use of opportunities, and to assert their independence.
What’s that like? It’s like living under quarantine—one that won’t be lifted when the virus disappears.