Just announced: Level Access and eSSENTIAL Accessibility agree to merge! Read more.

As we noted in our last post, today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD); a day devoted to getting people talking, thinking and learning about digital accessibility and users with different abilities. The principles that govern accessibility have been around for well over a decade and GAAD is a great day to take some time and build awareness around essential user needs. To that end we offer two simple exercises you can explore to increase accessibility awareness.

Unplug your mouse.  Go ahead, do it, we’ll wait. While it’s a bit unnerving at first utilizing a site or application without a mouse – and using the keyboard as the sole means of control – it’s a great way to explore many core accessibility challenges. For reference, one best practice quick test for our auditing group is to verify a system is usable solely via the keyboard. The act of limiting an exclusively visual method of control – the mouse – will greatly inform the accessible design of a system. Experiencing a site or application without a mouse will change the thought process of designers, developers, and testers.

Try a screen reader.  These days most major operating systems come bundled with free, limited functionality screen readers that can do a good job of introducing people to the technology. While we would hazard that the use of an OS bundled screen reader is generally not a valid, functional test for accessibility – a topic that could take several more posts to explore in depth – it’s a great way to start to understand the user profile of individuals with disabilities. For Windows that means Narrator and for Mac VoiceOver. Also, if you happen to be developing for mobile platforms there is a VoiceOver flavor for iOS that can readily be activated from your iPhone/iPad configuration settings. It’s a great intro tool to understanding accessibility on mobile devices.

Check out more GAAD discussions and activities on Twitter today by following #gaad and @gbla11yday!