GAAD co-founders discuss hybrid events and the GAAD pledge

It's Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on Thursday 20 May 2021, and we are marking GAAD by chatting with the two co-founders of the annual event (now in its 10th year), Jennison Asuncion and Joe Devon, who discuss accessibility training, hybrid events and the GAAD pledge.

The rise of hybrid events

In our webinar recording, Jennison discussed events: "All of this stuff going virtual has been a game changer... All of that said, I am so looking forward to getting back in person, nothing will replace that."

"I think it is going to cause a bit of friction in that people will be demanding more online or hybrid. What I would caution people to understand is, to someone who runs events, the level of complexity when you have to layer on the fully hybrid approach to everything, is a lot," he continued.

Highlights of the webinar

In this webinar AbilityNet's Head of Digital Inclusion, Robin Christopherson MBE, discussed with Jennison and Joe their experiences creating the global awareness event, what they learned along the way, and their plans for the future of inclusion and accessibility. Watch the webinar below and download the transcript

What is the GAAD Pledge?

The purpose of GAAD is to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital accessibility and inclusion, and the more than one billion people with disabilities/impairments.

Joe Devon is founding partner at Diamond, an inclusive digital agency. It launched the “Take the #GAADPledge” in 2019 to encourage organisations and developers to make accessibility a core value of their digital products. The GAAD Pledge is open to all organisations as way to show their commitment to accessibility.

Joe commented: "The GAAD pledge started with open-source projects where the open-source project first and foremost makes a commitment to making their open-source project accessible."

"The idea with the GAAD pledge is to really focus on the frameworks that people build technology in, because if the frameworks are accessible, they include accessible documentation, then the developers that take up the project will do a better job with accessibility which can affect millions of users downstream," Joe continued. 

Jennison Asuncion is Head of Accessibility (A11y) Engineering Evangelism at LinkedIn.

Access the podcast recording

Questions from the webinar

Attendees were able to pose their questions to the guests during the session and some of the answers are provided below, with more coming soon.

Question: Who was the lead at Facebook for the GAAD Pledge?

Jennison Asuncion: Joe and I worked with Mike Shebanek, Head of Accessibility at Facebook.

Q: Are there any dedicated speech access devices that can do email and web searches?

Robin Christopherson: The Amazon Echo family of products can do emails and much in the way of accessing information online. I’m not sure about the Google Assistant devices. If you want speech-driven but not dedicated, then of course there are a number of voice assistants and the excellent Voice Control built-in to iOS.

Q: Do you have suggestions for getting companies to keep their apps accessible as they update so often? Many apps are broken with updates.

RC: Any organisation needs to have checks and processes in place during an app’s development and subsequent updating. These are clearly specified by the respective manufacturer’s (Google and Apple) and there is an excellent accessibility checker built-in to XCode for iOS and macOS developers.

Joe Devon: It all comes down to the organisation having accessibility as a core value of the company. If they do everyone doing updates will pay attention to accessibility and most importantly, have accessibility testing as part of their QA process before going live with an update.

Q: What about advocating for universal keystrokes for all apps of the same genre such as video conferencing - Zoom, Teams, etc?

RC: Continuity between apps and platforms would be beneficial. In the case of mobile, there are often inconsistencies in how a user manipulates or discovers functions across apps and so that would be useful too. Easy wins would include consistent keystrokes across Teams and Zoom etc (which are currently conspicuously different).

Q: I offered a session called 'Digital accessibility in learning' and one person came. I changed the name to 'IT to help you learn' and I had 3 packed sessions. If we don't use the term 'accessibility' - what would you call it?

RC: Out with ‘Accessibility’ and in with ‘Inclusive design’ in as much as accessibility (still very much being the de facto guidelines to adhere to) as a concept has too much association with just being for disabled people – whereas, in very real terms, those guidelines are for everyone in this mobile-first world. One-handed phone use, small sheet of shiny glass on a sunny day, noisy cafe etc, etc. We have found that this approach has much broader appeal.

Q: How does Universal Design for Learning fit in with Accessibility?

RC: If I interpret this question correctly, we can confirm that the guidelines include the essential aspects of elearning such as multimedia and highly functional websites. As above, make the content and material more accessible and it will be more inclusive for all.

Q: Hybrid events are far more frustrating especially for people with disabilities - whether invisible or other. How do we help facilities staff to understand and providers and meeting organizers understand this?

RC: This is a difficult one. Hybrid has challenges around poor audio or visuals when incorporating a room full of participants. Everyone joining online separately would help with much of this wherever possible and we would want organisers to see this as an essential element wherever feasible.

Date of webinar: 
4 May 2021 - 13:00