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Global Accessibility Awareness Day

E.A. Draffan

AAC and Global Accessibility Awareness Day

"Every user deserves a first-rate digital experience on the web. Someone with a disability must be able to experience web-based services, content and other digital products with the same successful outcome as those without disabilities. This awareness and commitment to inclusion is the goal of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), a global event that shines a light on digital access and inclusion for people with disabilities." (GAAD Home Page)

AAC users can find that their digital experience is challenged in ways that most people do not appreciate and yet there have been several projects that have highlighted the issues and even special browsers designed to support AAC users as described by Colette Nicolle and colleagues in 2004 "An AAC-Enabled Internet: From User Requirements to Guidelines."

Sadly, 17 years on it seems some of the issues have yet to improve, such as integrated text to speech output for seamless workng between all applications and content. This is not quite the same as the screen readers that read out everything for those who are blind and can be confusing at times for many AAC users. There remains the need for improved accessibility for switch users and those using symbols. Accurate automatic text simplification remains an important accessibility feature as we have mentioned in a previous blog.

Text content may be provided as an image or in a form that means it cannot be read aloud to help with understanding or accept the addition of symbols. The ability to have words explained can only be added if the text is accessible (copy and pasted) as can be seen when hovering over words in a sample page from Widgit's Point, a symbol picture dictionary or when you add the EasyReading browser extension. Easy Reading Symbols to a web page.

We also think there should be more multilingual options for symbol labels, so that increased personalisation can occur when pages are automatically translated.

Assistiveware have highlighted the importance of online communication in their blog 'The importance of social media for AAC users'. The author highlights the positives as being less stressful than communication in face to face situations and when training and support has been provided it can be made accessible and prove to be very beneficial.

“Social media gives me more of a chance to interact, rather than just communicate. I often find with the rush of using AAC, I fail to truly interact and connect with others: asking questions, showing interest, offering support.” ~ Johanna Schmidt, AAC user"

Let's all celebrate GAAD on May 20th 2021 and hope that we can make digital technologies accessible to all.