Accessibility is Personal

It’s that time again.

It’s late May and that means one thing in the Accessibility world: #GAAD (Global Accessibility Awareness Day).  It’s the annual online & offline event Dreamed up by Joe Devon and Jennison Asuncion to reach outside of the sometimes insular world of accessibility and share the passion for making technology and services available to everyone regardless of disability.

GAAD logo

#GAAD is a great thing and each year it gets bigger and bigger. Over the last few years I’ve gone from attendee at events to organising them – this year we’re teaming up with the BBC to hold an all day event in our headquarters in London.  My hope is that we’ll attract and interact with a bunch of people that don’t normally consider that accessibility touches them.  It may not yet but the likelihood is that it does already and it is almost certain that within their lifetimes all of the participants will find that they prefer to use adapted and adaptive tech because it makes their life easier.

Accessibility is Personal to Me

Accessibility is personal to me for several reasons:

I owe my education to accessibility.

I have used assistive technologies for 15 years now and freely admit that I would have struggled to complete my masters without using things like Dictation and Text to Speech Tools (Dragon Naturally Speaking and Texthelp Read & Write).

I owe my job to accessibility.

Yes it is my job to provide accessibility products and services, but without access to them my own working life would be a lot harder.

Accessibility will mean my parents stay independent for longer into their old age.

My father is deaf (uses a hearing aid) & has mobility problems, my mother is visually impaired (cataracts) although neither would identify as being either.  Both benefit from being able to use technology that has been personalised for them.  Both love their DORO mobiles and their Ipads.

Accessibility is personal to users – It is allowing personalisation.

Everyone is unique, we all have different needs and use technology in ways that suit our needs.  Accessibility is all about allowing people to do stuff in a way that suits them best.  Sounds a lot like user preference right?  Alastair Sommerville (@AcuityDesign) refers to accessibility as “Extreme Personalisation” Watch the interview with Alastair that we did for Axschat a in February.

I really like this concept but some of the most useful accessibility features for making content easier to digest are widely used things such as larger text, reduced white point reminders, speech recognition, once upon a time these things would have been extreme they are transitioning to the mainstream.

Every time I get frustrated with accessibility and the challenges of delivery, I take a step back and think of the things above, I remember why I love accessibility.

Happy Global Accessibility Awareness Day.


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