Today, on Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), individuals and organizations around the world are focused on learning about, and improving, digital access for people with disabilities.

A young woman with long, light brown hair communicates using sign language while on a video call on her laptop. She is seated on a gray sofa in front of a bookshelf.

GAAD was founded in 2012 to call attention to the need for digital inclusion in an increasingly online society. Since then, the digital world has dramatically expanded, with digital experiences now mediating much of our day-to-day life. Whether we’re video conferencing with colleagues, booking travel plans, scheduling medical appointments, or streaming the latest TV series, we rely on digital technology. And access to digital experiences has become an even more urgent requirement for equitable participation in society.

Wondering what to think about, talk about, and do on GAAD this year? We asked accessibility experts on our team to share what’s on their minds on this meaningful day, and their recommendations for making an impact.

From Jon Avila, Chief Accessibility Officer:

As we celebrate and reflect on GAAD this month, we should consider the progress we have made and the work to be done. We should recognize that GAAD isn’t just about awareness but also about action. Beyond educating others, GAAD is a great opportunity to volunteer in our communities, create resources, and find new ways to expand access to technology.

And while GAAD may be a single day, we must recognize that technology is constantly evolving and that the work of accessibility and inclusion is ongoing. As our industry changes, we need to ensure that new technology doesn’t leave people with disabilities behind—while never limiting the future of accessibility to what is possible today.

A headshot of Jon Avila, Chief Accessibility Officer Level Access

“GAAD isn’t just about awareness, but also about action.”

Jon Avila, Chief Accessibility Officer

From Corbb O’Connor, Director of Accessibility Advocacy:

In past years, I often saw posts from blind friends on Facebook asking for information about how accessible a particular category of apps was with screen readers. Today, I see posts from blind friends about the conversations (sometimes battles) they’re having with the companies that build their favorite banking, gaming, news, and shopping apps, not to mention countless others.

Accessibility is no longer a consideration—it’s an expectation. And it’s driving technological progress for everyone. In the early 2010s, to take a photo of a document with your iPhone and convert it to spoken audio, you needed a specialized, costly app designed specifically for blind people. Those innovations have led to the optical character recognition technology that we now all use.

Still, too many companies are resistant to this progress. So, on GAAD, let’s focus our energies on teaching teams that we, people with disabilities, are already using their apps, that we are a larger-than-expected percentage of their users, and that they have a responsibility to include us in all phases of the software development lifecycle. In 2024, teams should already know that accessibility is a core non-functional requirement for everything they do.

A headshot of Corbb O'Connor, Director of Accessibility Advocacy Level Access

“Accessibility is a core non-functional requirement.”

Corbb O’Connor, Director of Accessibility Advocacy

From Karen Hawkins, Principal of Accessible Design:

GAAD is an opportunity for all of us to assess how inclusive our own day-to-day practices are, to understand opportunities for improvement, and to act on them. It doesn’t matter what you do, what your job title is, or what level of seniority you do or do not have. In today’s world, we all touch digital experiences. We send emails, we post on social media, we write documents, etc. And so, your aim should be to craft every email, social post, and document to be as inclusive as you can make it.

Why? You don’t know the needs of your audience. You don’t know if they prefer large text or a specific color palette (like dark mode), or if they don’t easily recall your organization’s acronyms, for instance. Accessibility isn’t just about making experiences work for assistive technology like keyboards and screen readers; there is more to consider to create truly inclusive experiences.

We all have a responsibility to our colleagues, customers, and communities to ensure that whatever we individually output is as accessible as possible. So today on GAAD, take a moment to reflect upon your own output. I’ll bet you identify at least a few ways you could improve.

Karen Hawkins Headshot

“Reflect on your day-to-day work output. I’ll bet you identify areas for improvement.”

Karen Hawkins, Principal of Accessible Design

From Dana Randall, Head of Accessible UI Design:

Of the 42 million Americans that have a severe disability, 96% have disabilities that are unseen or non-apparent. A U.K.study found that around 70% of all disabilities are non-apparent. Regardless of what metric you want to use, the message is the same: not all disabilities are visible or apparent. In fact, many of them fall into this category.

Because of the stigma often associated with disability disclosure, and its potential implications, it’s important to recognize that people with non-apparent disabilities may never disclose their status.

During GAAD, I’m shifting my focus from talks about designing with accessibility in mind to driving more awareness about non-apparent disabilities and neurodiversity. I’m hopeful that by putting a “friendly face” to discussions around topics like neurodiversity, chronic pain, and rare conditions, I can help challenge stereotypes.

I believe that to build a sustainable and scalable accessibility program, accessibility leaders and advocates need to reach beyond fear tactics. Accessibility must evolve from something organizations have to do into something businesses and product leaders want to do. By driving more understanding around the needs of users with all types of disabilities, including those that are non-apparent, we can more effectively, proactively, and meaningfully embed these considerations into how we do our jobs.

A headshot of Dana Randall, Head of Accessible UI Design

“Not all disabilities are visible or apparent.”

Dana Randall, Head of Accessible UI Design

Celebrate GAAD with opportunities for learning, connection, and action

Digital accessibility is an ongoing practice, and your commitment shouldn’t be limited to just one time of year. But GAAD offers a meaningful opportunity to put additional effort into advancing digital accessibility at your organization. If your program’s growth has hit a plateau, it’s the perfect time to identify new paths for progress, like bringing more teams into the fold. And if you’re just getting started, there’s no better moment to get your accessibility practice off the ground.

To help you drive online inclusion forward this GAAD, we’ve put together a hub featuring practical resources, along with webinars and in-person events where you’ll learn from experts and like-minded professionals. Check it out to expand your digital accessibility knowledge, build new skills, and increase your organization’s impact as we work together to create a digital world that’s accessible to everyone.

Explore opportunities to advance your accessibility skills

Access our GAAD hub