Every year, people from all around the world gather to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and this year is no exception. I’ve noticed that many of the events are targetted at professionals who want to learn more about accessibility and people who are already involved in accessibility and inclusion work, and while these events are totally awesome, I’ve received questions about how children and students of all ages can learn about accessibility and inclusion in a positive and practical way. Here are my tips and free/low-cost activity ideas for how students can celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day, written for students of all ages and skill levels.
What is Global Accessibility Awareness Day?
Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is an annual celebration of all things related to digital accessibility and inclusion that is held on the third Thursday in May. Companies of all sizes, accessibility groups, and individuals come together to host and attend events in online and physical spaces to learn more about how people with disabilities access digital content and other products, as well as advocate for the importance of accessible and inclusive design. Since over one billion people worldwide have some form of disability that may impact how they use technology, it’s more important than ever to invest in accessibility and work to remove barriers for people with disabilities.
- Official Global Accessibility Awareness Day website
- Ten Fun Facts About Braille for World Braille Day 2019
- How I Respond To Questions/Comments About My Eyes
- 12 Safe Alternatives To The Bird Box Challenge
- How I Respond To Children’s Questions/Comments About Low Vision
Learn about different assistive technology terms
I never heard the phrase “assistive technology” until I was in high school, and since then I have made it part of my mission to be able to educate as many people as I can about how assistive technology can be used to help people with disabilities, especially people with low vision like me. I’ve put together a list of common assistive technology terms for low vision, and encourage others to learn about different assistive technology tools and technologies for other disabilities to increase awareness and help to normalize using them
- Demonstrate accessibility settings such as a screen reader or screen magnification on popular devices such as computers, tablets, or phones. I recommend enabling Select-to-speak or Speak Content on mobile devices so that students don’t have to worry about the screen reader getting stuck
- Create a slideshow about different assistive technology tools and how they are used
- Think about ways that students could use accessibility settings to help them with their learning. Some examples could include using large print to make books easier to read, letting users navigate a website with their computer when they don’t want to use a mouse, and using dictation
- Watch short videos about what it is like to use a specific assistive technology tool such as a screen reader on social media
- A to Z of Assistive Technology For Low Vision
- My Talk At A Future Date: What I Wish I Learned About AT Before Starting College
- How To Make ASCII/Emoji Memes Accessible For Visual Impairment
- Ways To Read Webpages Without A Traditional Screen Reader
- Learning To Use Dictation As Assistive Technology With Low Vision
- How I Document Accessibility Preferences With Low Vision
Practice writing alt text or image descriptions
66% of website home pages do not contain alt text or image descriptions, which means that screen reader users or other users with visual impairments would have no idea what is in an image. An even larger number of images on social media do not contain alt text, or contain incorrect/insufficient alt text that is automatically generated. By taking the time to learn how to write alt text and image descriptions, users can ensure that images and gifs are accessible to people with visual impairments.
- Ask students to write a short description of a photo or picture. Encourage them to describe the visual elements as if they had to imagine the image with their eyes closed.
- Have students write descriptions of art that they created or photos that they took
- Learn how to add alt text on social media or within other applications
- Practice writing short descriptions of gifs or popular memes/reaction images
- How To Write Alt Text For Amateur Art
- How To Write Alt Text For Memes
- How To Write Alt Text For Gifs
- How To Write Alt Text For Digital Comics
- How To Write Alt Text and Image Descriptions for the Visually Impaired
- How To Add Alt Text On Social Media
Imagine or create something that can be used as assistive technology
One of my favorite parts about studying assistive technology is being able to reimagine everyday objects and technology tools as tools that can be used to help people with disabilities to be successful. I’ve seen lots of students over the years that have come up with awesome accessibility and assistive technology-themed projects that capture the same ideas of using existing tools to help others with disabilities. A lot of fantastic assistive technology tools were invented by people who were looking to solve a problem using the tools that they had available and have gone on to positively impact the lives of many people with disabilities.
- Ask students to write a short story about something that could be used to help a person who has trouble using their arms, seeing, hearing, or similar. Example stories could be about a talking computer, a pair of glasses with captions built-in, or a hands-free TV remote
- Challenge students to create a tactile or 3D model that could be used by someone with a visual impairment to teach an educational concept
- Find instructions online or on social media for DIY assistive technology or accessibility hacks
- Have students design an application or setting on their favorite device that could help make it easier to use for someone with a disability. Some examples could include captions on a phone call, an app that lets someone know when they are about to run into a wall, or a voice assistant that can open doors.
- Low Vision Accessibility Settings For Android Phones
- How To Make iPad Accessible for Low Vision
- Five Myths About Assistive Technology
- Ways To Use Teleprompter Apps As Assistive Technology
- My DIY Assistive Technology board on Pinterest
Read or write something that highlights an accessibility-related issue or topic
Over the years, there has been an explosion of content on accessibility-related issues and topics in the form of blogs, news stories, online articles, TV shows, and more. Accessibility intersects with everything, and I’ve seen firsthand how digital accessibility can impact how I use a lot of different products and services as a person with low vision- even unexpected things like using a soda machine, attending a play, and using a calculator.
- Find an article that talks about an interesting accessibility tool or issue and discuss it- Newsela has lots of great articles for students of all reading levels
- Watch a video created by a person with a disability about how they use assistive technology (crowd-sourced recommendations linked below)
- Write about barriers that a person with a disability may face with being able to do a task, and research potential tools that could be helpful online.
- Write a paper about an accessibility-related topic that intersects with an area of interest. Some examples of papers I have written in college include using audio description with live theater, suggesting assistive technology for a movie character, using visual assistance apps to navigate my college campus, and more
- Crowd-sourced recommendations for blind/low vision YouTubers
- Five Free and Accessible News Apps For Low Vision Users
- Using Coca-Cola Freestyle Machines With Low Vision
- Promoting Cast Involvement In Audio Description
- Five Calculator Apps That Help Students With Low Vision In The Classroom
- How Amazon Alexa Can Help With Online Learning
Listen to or create audio description for videos
One of my favorite accessibility-related tools is audio description, because it tells me about visual content that I wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. While it may not be as mainstream as captioning, audio description is everywhere from streaming services to online videos and is tremendously helpful for viewers with visual impairments or others who want to listen to videos instead of watching them.
- Watch a movie or educational video with audio description
- Create audio description or text-based video description for a video on social media, i.e TikTok
- Ask students to describe a short animal video as if they were talking about it with someone who hadn’t seen it yet
- Have students create audio description for their favorite YouTube videos with the free YouDescribe website, which does not require any special equipment
- 8 Myths About Audio Description
- How To Write Video Descriptions For TikTok
- How To Write Video Descriptions For Animal Videos On Social Media
- Creating Audio Description For Dance Tutorials With YouDescribe
- Creating Audio Description For Recipe Videos With YouDescribe
- Creating Audio Description For Commercials With YouDescribe
- Creating Audio Description for Music Videos With YouDescribe
Learn how to create accessible documents and presentations
It’s important to know how to create accessible documents and presentations, as people who are reading or viewing different types of content may not explicitly identify as having a disability or needing items in an accessible format. For this reason, it is helpful to get into the practice of adding alt text, structuring documents, and making content available in multiple formats for people who need it.
- Have students practice organizing information into different categories or sub-categories that are in a logical order
- Explore the Accessibility Checker that is built into Microsoft products on a document or presentation to see if it is accessible for assistive technology users
- Use a color blindness checker to show how different images or layouts would look for people who are colorblind
- Give students the option to complete assignments in different formats, including typing, recording audio, creating a short presentation, etc
- Seven Factors That Make Websites Accessible To The Visually Impaired
- Seven Accessibility Features You Didn’t Know Existed In Microsoft Office
- Designing Accessible Documents With Microsoft Word
- How To Create Accessible PowerPoints
- Alternatives To Trifold Presentations
- Quick Ways To Improve Accessibility For Virtual Learning Materials
I love getting to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day every year, and I’m looking forward to attending several different online events and learning new things from industry leaders and others in the field. I hope this post on celebrating GAAD with students is helpful for parents or teachers who want to get kids interested in accessibility!