Global Accessibility Awareness Day – Building a Barrier-Free Digital Experience

May 17th is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, an annual event started in 2011 when a web developer and blogger asked readers whether they routinely checked their website’s screen reader compatibility along with browser compatibility. He suggested a Global Accessibility Awareness Day be established to spread the word about web accessibility and connect developers and content creators to the resources they need to learn, understand, and implement true web accessibility. Most developers and content creators knew enough about making sure their websites worked in older browsers but knew a lot less about making sure all of their visitors could read and navigate their content. Seven years later, Global Accessibility Awareness Day is absolutely global, with events happening around the world!

Did you know that the NIDILRR community has been at the forefront of digital accessibility for more than 30 years? It’s true!

1980s

Projects funded in the 1980s conducted research and development in computer interfaces which could present data and graphical information in formats that could be used by people who are blind or Deaf-blind, ways for people with mobility and movement disorders to physically access and operate a computer, and computer programs for special education, job training, and life skills training.

1990s

As graphical user interfaces like Windows expanded, grantee research and development included access to these new operating systems, more exploration of speech integration, adapting desktop video technology, and using computer simulations to teach life skills training.

2000s

Fast forward to the new millennium, when NIDILRR began supporting the Web Accessibility Initiative, providing an authoritative source for reliable technical information on true accessibility in information technology. As information technology expanded so did research and development in accessibility of IT with projects on access to e-books, empowering people with disabilities to manage their own information, building universal access to IT, and ensuring access to online education, among others.

2010s

Taking us up to present day where IT is everywhere and in almost every aspect of life. Grantees are continuing to research and develop technology to ensure full access to information, education, home, transportation, entertainment, and so on. These include projects on wireless inclusive technology, smart home for aging in place, cloud computing, brain computer access, and so much more!

2020 and beyond?

What will the next decade bring us and how can we ensure equal access to these new technologies? Leave a comment below!

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