Accessibility Awareness Goes Global

As with the movie industry, the summer months have become an important time of year for tech firms. Recently we’ve seen the likes of Google and Apple host their developers’ conferences and the beginnings of the frenzy that will surround the launch of Windows 10. For me, the tech event that kicked off my summer was Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD.)

As with most things tech related, the inspiration for GAAD came about via twitter. Jennison Asuncion, a Toronto accessibility professional, happen upon a blog post by L.A. based web developer Joe Devon. With the power of the internet and their combined passion to raise the profile of accessibility, the first GAAD was born.

The idea behind GAAD is to move the conversation around accessibility, away from those already familiar with its benefits and present its ability to increase productivity and make the workplace more inclusive, to a brand new audience.


This year we were kindly invited to a London GAAD event hosted by Atos (the digital services company) and the BBC. The events organisers Paul Bepey (Access Technology Manager, BBC) and Neil Milliken (Head of Accessibility & Digital Inclusion, Atos) were on hand to tell us how the event came about. “I feel accessibility is incredibly important and I don’t think it gets the recognition it deserves” Paul continued, “ I had an idea and I spoke to Neil about it, that we should collaborate and organise a joined up event to show how both organisations take accessibility.


Neil felt that the event was a great opportunity to get businesses more involved, “it’s an opportunity for us to go and grab people within the organisations and say, ‘you need to be thinking about this kind of stuff because large proportions of your workforce and large proportions of your customers are going to need these things and benefit from them.’”

This was my first GAAD event and what impressed me most was the caliber of the guests, speakers and exhibitors that were in attendance. Nuance (Dragon), Text Help, Microsoft, Sony and Iansyst were all in attendance. Seeing the non-nero-diverse and those with specific difficulties using each others’ tech for the first time, reinforce my theory that assistive tech does not just help people with a specific condition; it can be useful across the board. A great example of this was a new a 3D audio headset for the blind.

Although developed for the blind with a few tweaks it could give devices like Google Glass.

and the Apple Watch a run for there money.

For me the biggest take away from the event was this: a group of people, with varying abilities and challenges, came together and left with a deeper understanding of each others’ needs and requirements. With this knowledge each attendee had an understanding of how they could make the environments around them a little more inclusive for those they share it with.

Visit the GAAD site to get involve with next year’s event:

Words by Sean Douglas

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