web design

Today, May 9th, is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The point of this day is to increase awareness of the importance of digital accessibility for all people. This outreach is for both geeks and non-geeks. It is for accessibility in learning, playing, working and enjoying life on the web. Because when it comes right down to it the web really is for everyone. So what are you going to do today to celebrate GAAD? Here are a few ideas:

Ideas for Celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)

  • Real People, Real Lives, Real Accessibility – Watch the accessibility story of Aleeha and see how technology is allowing her to overcome her disability and study to become the first blind veterinarian.
  • Experience Loss of Dexterity – Trying switching your mouse to your non-dominent hand for an hour. See what it would be like to use the web without your current level of dexterity.
  • Experience Keyboard Only – Try using your favorite web page without a mouse. If you hit a road block realize that people who use screen readers or have dexterity issues and can’t use a mouse would not have equal access to this site. Consider sending a message via the “contact us” form for that site asking them to make their site more accessible.
  • Experience Reduced Vision – Dim the screen on your mobile phone and try to use it in bright sunlight. See what it would be like to have reduced vision and a lack of clear color perception.
  • Sign up for the online version of AccessUAccessU at Your Desk – Learn more about accessibility from the comfort of your own desk. What a great line-up of speakers and topics.
  • Apply for a $10,000 Accessibility Grant – Apply for the Amaze Digital Accessibility Grant. Deque has extended the deadline for submission through today. What would you do with $10,000 to make the web more accessible through innovative technology or an amazing new project?
  • Try using a screen reader.
    • ChromeVox – Try ChromeVox, a free screen reader for the Chrome Browser. I’ll tell you, the interactive ChomeVox Tutorial is really awesome.
    • VoiceOver – If you have a mac, try VoiceOver (it is already on on your computer).
    • NVDA – Try using the open source screen reader NVDA for PCs. Great instructions on getting started can be found at

Additional News and Resources of Global Accessibility Awareness Day

What did I do last year? I spent one hour using the web without my mouse. I reported my findings last year at “Accessibility Awareness: My 1 Mouseless Hour on the Web” .

What am I going to do this year? I’m going to use ChromeVox (a free and powerful screen reader) to explore Google Docs. I’ll share my findings in an upcoming Tweetchat as well as a post to my blog.

I’ve been living in the world of digital accessibility for over a decade now. I know so much about helping people who are blind, deaf and/or mobility impaired. But the area I’m weakest in, is cognitive disabilities. And, let’s be honest, that topic can feel overwhelming. Where are the lines about what is possible and reasonable to do for cognitive disabilities? Who can I turn to when I have questions on this topic?

One of the visionaries in the field of digital accessibility and cognitive disabilities is Lisa Seeman. She is really helping me understand that the time has come to further our research in this area. Why now? Because cognitive disabilities are more prevalent than all the other disabilities put together. We’ve spent over ten years focusing on blind, deaf and mobility/dexterity. Yes, at first the concept of cognitive disabilities may feel intimidating, but stop and remember when someone first told you that a blind person could use a computer and we needed to make our sites accessible to screen readers. That was pretty mind-boggling too. We didn’t let that challenge stop us, now did we?

Let’s stop being blind and deaf to the opportunities that await us in the realm of digital accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities.

AccessU is Knowbility’s annual conference that provides three days of accessibility classes and workshops. As Austin begins to warm toward summer, there is no cooler place to be than with the passionate speakers and instructors for this May’s AccessU! How can you resist all these wonderful accessibility courses and workshops from the world’s best instructors?

This year, some of the highlighted speakers and topics include include:

  • Henny Swan from the BBC, who will focus on Mobile Accessibility
  • Shawn Lauriat from Google, who will help us take on accessibility challenges in Complex Web Applications
  • Molly E. Holzschlag from Knowbility, who will demystify the emerging Open Web Platform.

Be sure to check out the AccessU full course schedule to learn more about all of the fantastic presenters and content, as well as opportunities for socializing and networking during evening events.

AccessU keeps close to the heart of the ideologies of Open Web – that the Web we create must transcend the platforms, operating systems, browsers and most importantly – societal barriers imposed on anyone seeking access to the information and services we create every day. To do this well is a fine art as well as deep technology.

Come and join in for a great experience that will leave you with new learning, inspiration and passion for building the Web – the way the Web was meant to be!

Today is the very first Global Accessibility Awareness Day. To be a part of this virtual event, I chose to deepen my understanding of accessibility by spending an hour using the web by keyboard alone. You see, for people with visual disabilities (that use screenreaders) they don’t have the opportunity to use a mouse. A mouse is a tool that requires sight. You have to see where the mouse arrow is pointing to know when to click.

In my work, I spend a lot of time focusing on solving accessibility issues for people with visual disabilities. So, today, the real reason why I chose to go mouseless was to get a deeper understanding of what it is like for people with mobility limitations that prevent the use of a mouse. Without the aid of a screenreader, what is it like to use the web by keyboard alone? I know that one hour is a short time, but here are the insights I gained from doing this today.

If you had been in my home office during this hour, you would have heard me exclaim:

  • What Keyboard Shortcuts?– I need to learn a lot of keyboard shortcuts. I never realized how much I rely on my mouse.
  • Get to the Point – Where is the “skip to main content” for me on this site. I have to tab 55+ times to get to the main content…every time I go to a new page in this site. Arrrrrgh!
  • Where am I ???? – Ummmm….as I tab through this page, I have no idea what element I’m on. There is no visual indication to tell me where the keyboard focus is.
  • Missing my Mouse! – 20 minutes into this keyboard only hour and I miss my mouse so much it aches.
  • Fake Skip Links – Oh, cool, there is a “skip to content” link I can get to on this site. But wait…when I click on it, it appears to scroll the page to the main content, but when I tab again, my keyboard focus is really still at the top of the page. Grrrrrrrrrr.
  • My Brain is Full! – Oh my word! The cognitive load…trying to remember all these new keyboard shortcuts is taxing. Okay, so the shortcuts have always been there…but they are new to me.
  • Out of Control – I wonder if I can access a specific video that I’ve been meaning to watch. (Navigate to site) Oh lovely, no visual focus indicators, no skip to main content, guess I’ll begin the tab tab tab dance. After a few unsuccessful guesses at what link I’m on, I finally hit pay dirt and get the page with the video I want to watch open. Lucky for me, the video is set to autoplay (which I usually detest). Why was that lucky? Because the controls for this particular video player are not keyboard accessible. That is right, I can’t stop the video, I can’t pause the video. I can’t adjust volume or turn on captions.
  • Are We There Yet? – Okay, hour is almost up. My manta is…”I will not use my mouse. I will not use my mouse!
  • A Web Site that Works! – I head to a financial site where I am a customer. I wonder what this will be like. I’m not very hopeful. Surprise, this .com web team has obviously done their homework. I login and navigate with relative ease and am able to accomplish everything I set out to do.
  • EasyChirp – One last experience to praise…I had never personally used EasyChirp until tonight. I must say it was a dream to use in my state of mouselessness.

So what did I learn tonight in my hour sans mouse? A gained a greater appreciation for the web accessibility barriers that remain for people with mobility issues. No matter how much I know about how to test for accessibility issues across the different types of official disabilities (sight, hearing, mobility, cognitive, speech)…I can always increase my knowledge and empathy of inaccessible experiences. I can honestly say that this was an hour well spent.

If you are reading this and you didn’t have a chance to participate in the first Global Accessibility Awareness Day, don’t fret, you can make any day your personal Accessibility Awareness Day. I encourage you to take a moment (perhaps 15 – 30 minutes) and try one of these activities:

  • Go Mouseless – As best you can, try to use the web without your keyboard. If you’ve never gone mouseless…don’t feel bad if you need to cheat a little. Just remember, every time you cheat (and use your mouse)…there are people who don’t have that choice.
  • Low Vision – Lower the brightness on your computer and/or decrease your screen resolution to something quite small like 800 x 600. Realize that people with low vision use software that magnifies their screens up to 36 times. Using a screen magnifier reminds me of trying to use a web browser on a small mobile device.
  • Head over to the Global Accessibility Awareness Day Site to see other ideas for how you can experience accessibility first hand.

Mark May 9 on your calendar for the first Global Accessibility Awareness Day!

Purpose: Get people talking, thinking and learning about digital accessibility and users with different disabilities, especially among the design, development, usability, and related communities who build, shape, fund and influence technology use and change. While people may be interested in the topic, the reality is that they often do not know how or where to start. Awareness comes first.

What Can I Do? Experience Accessibility First Hand – On May 9 we encourage everyone to take part in activities to experience first-hand what it is like to need accessibility features when using different technology. Ideas include:

  • Unplugging the mouse for an hour and using the keyboard alone
  • Turning on mobile device’s accessibility features and surfing the web or using favorite mobile apps.

What’s Next? Ideas and resources are on our website. After spending an hour exploring and experiencing, we invite people to reflect and share what happened using their blog, Twitter, or other social media. We will have blog space for those of you who do not have one. In addition, join us on May 9 for a public introductory talk on digital accessibility or a networking event planned in cities in Australia, Canada, India, The United Kingdom, and the United States.

Want to know more? You will find full details on the Global Accessibility Awareness Day website (in English only this year). Show your support for the effort and stay up to date by Liking and sharing the Global Accessibility Awareness event’s Facebook page Follow @gbla11yday on Twitter and tweet using the #gaad hashtag.

You can start helping right now! Share information about the May 9 Global Accessibility Awareness Day with your family, friends and colleagues.

I love to share my passion for the open web by showing people the tools I use to test web sites for accessibility. Whether you are .com, .edu or .gov, accessibility applies to you. Don’t be surprised by inaccessible issues on your site. It doesn’t take but a moment to look in the mirror and see that indeed you have a problem. On Friday, February 18, 2011, I’ll be presenting on “Practical Accessibility Testing” at Webstock in Wellington, New Zealand.

Practical Accessibility Testing

How do you know if your web site is accessible? Can automated testing tools help? Glenda will share gems from her 10+ years of experience testing sites for accessibility. Equip yourself with free and powerful testing tools. Learn how to turn it up a notch when you need to monitor accessibility across a vast enterprise. See some of the very latest testing tools that will help you evaluate color contrast, dynamic content and WAI-ARIA compliance.

If you don’t have the good fortune to attend Webstock, you can watch all the Webstock presentations online. Just another bit of evidence that Webstock is the mostest bestest scientifically proven amazingest conference ever. In the history of the world. Fact.

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, an international day of blogging (videologging, podcasting, comic drawing etc.) to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science.

I am surrounded by women in technology that inspire me. When I paused to consider who to recognize as my Ada for 2010, I knew without a doubt, it was Leslie Jensen-Inman. Leslie’s developing a model web education program at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. Her students, steeped in web standards and best practices, are already producing professional level work before they graduate. I’ve met and worked side-by-side with a number of her students and can testify that Leslie’s passion for creating beautiful and usable web sites has been ignited in each of them.

Leslie’s desire to teach the web doesn’t stop with her students. She actively reaches out to educators, community leaders, business people and web developers. Leslie orchestrated the first in a series of fabulous events called Web Education Rocks (aka WE Rock Tour). This event brought together teachers, students, artists, web developers, politicians, entrepreneurs and business leaders who all benefit from an open web. The event helped everyone understand that the future of the web is built on today’s web education. It was a magical evening of inspiration, connecting and sharing of valuable web education curriculum resources (WaSP InterACT Curriculum Framework). And the WE Rock Tour didn’t end there…it continued in Australia and is booking dates in Europe and the US for 2010.

I cannot possibly express how inspired I have been by Leslie’s vision, energy and boundless optimism. Working with her is deeply satisfying and re-energizing. But don’t just take my word for it. Join us in the great adventure to further Web Education!

AccessU is Knowbility’s annual institute that provides two days of classes in how to make electronic information technology accessible to everyone – including people with disabilities. If you believe that the web should empower ALL people, if you need information about how to meet state and federal accessibility mandates, if you are a commercial web developer who wants to understand emerging best business practices for the web, AccessU is the place to be in May.

Join world renowned accessibility experts for two days of classes, many of them hands-on, to help you improve your skills and understand the both the need and the techniques for inclusive IT design. From the basics to the bleeding edge, AccessU will provide the resources you need.

Who Should Attend Access U

Web developers, IT Managers, policy developers, administrators, programmers and anyone else with IT responsibilities in your company

Register for AccessU Online Today!

How To Register For AccessU

Where: St. Edward’s University, Austin, Texas
When:Monday, May 10th and Tuesday, May 11th, 2010
Optional post conference classes on Weds. May 12th, 2010

Early Bird Rates: Rates will go up $ 75 after April 1, 2010
General Registration: $425 (2 days of workshops) – or $235 per day
Usability Track $425 – two days of workshops
2 days AccessU with Post Conference: $820.00
Post Conference Only: $395

Group Rate (register 6 people or more for a 30% discount), contact Kim Leno kim@knowbility.org.

For conference information, contact

Teenya Franklin, Community Programs Director

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