Across the world, accessibility is a human right for all, particularly for people with disabilities. Great progress has been made in creating more accessible workspaces, mediums, and digital platforms to ensure fair and equal access for everyone. That being said, there is still more work to be done, and creating greater awareness around the need for accessibility in all its forms is a huge part of that work. Fortunately, the month of May marks some big days of acknowledging and working towards accessibility. The Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is celebrated on Thursday, May 20, and the City of Ottawa will celebrate AccessAbility Awareness Day on May 27.
Global Accessibility Awareness Day is meant to prompt conversations and acknowledgment of accessibility – in particular, digital accessibility. GAAD recognises the following about digital accessibility: “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,” (“What is Digital Accessibility?”, Global Accessibility Awareness Day). GAAD cites that over one billion people have a disability or impairment; however, when analysing the same number of websites, the majority had multiple accessibility issues. That means that millions of people do not have fair and equal access to millions of online resources. This results in people with disabilities being barred from full customer services, educational services, and even financial services. With more and more information resources being digitized, digital accessibility is of the utmost importance across all organizations and the services they provide.
Accessibility for all is a core principle that the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) abides by and strives for. The library offers numerous services to accommodate people with disabilities, and continuously explores ways in which these services and our policies can be improved, or what additional accommodations can be created. When it comes to digital accessibility, the OPL provides an accessible website as well as assistive technology workstations. As of 2014, the OPL website is in full compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and has integrated its resources into a user-friendly interface. Our assistive technology workstations include equipment such as magnifiers, closed captioning, as well as reading and writing software for peoples with disabilities among many other tools. Ensuring that the members of our communities have access to all that the library has to offer is a responsibility that the OPL takes seriously in its efforts to uphold its principles of the public good, and social responsibility.
This May 20, the Ottawa Public Library encourages everyone to observe the Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Check out their resources, other events, and consider participating! GAAD is always hosting discussions and activities to increase accessibility awareness across the globe, so there is something for everyone. Simply looking into the accessibility status of your organization’s website or online resources is a great first step that can lead to improving your digital accessibility. All of our steps towards accessibility combined can create great change. We can all work towards educating and empowering ourselves as we strive to provide accessibility for all.