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Atechability

Atechability Number 7: Harness The Power of GAAD for Accessibility

Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is a once-a-year day created to promote digital accessibility. This post will cover a short discussion explaining digital accessibility, the goal behind GAAD, and how a potentially interested party can participate. Before anything though, I want to point you to the Global Accessibility Awareness Day website. This is the main resource for information. This post on ScreenlessAllies attempts to be factual, but is also strongly opinionated.

What Is Digital Accessibility?

It would take a whole post, or posts, to cover this complex topic. Essentially, digital accessibility, or just accessibility, is the ability for a website, or generally digital content, to be used and accessed by the widest range of people possible. The term is commonly used to highlight those users with disabilities which include visual, cognitive, hearing, mobility, and other disabilities.
You might be asking, “Why is there only a single day dedicated to this important topic?” Good question!
By default, most companies, organizations, and anyone who runs and maintains a website has probably never had to consider how their content is of interest to people with disabilities. However, if the content is not accessible, the population of people with disabilities miss out. This brings about ethical dilemmas, legal issues, and I dare say, even a loss of business opportunity.
Anyway, I’ll probably write a longer post in the future covering this topic. For now, the important thing to know is that accessibility is important to everyone. This is why a day like this was created — to bring awareness to this important topic. A custom holiday if you will.

How Global Accessibility Awareness Day Started

According to the GAAD website’s about page, there was a single blog post that started it all. The post was written by an enthusiastic backend software developer who declared the start of GAAD.
There are some minor changes to the rules and dates of GAAD as of the original blog post, but the general sentiment holds true, “raise awareness and know-how on making sites accessible.”

when Is GAAD?

GAAD is known to take place on the third Thursday in May. You could argue that it should be held all days of the year, but then we would miss out on an opportunity to celebrate yet another holiday on the growing list of custom holidays!

Is GAAD For Me?

GAAD is for everyone! It is encouraged that awareness spreads throughout companies, to individuals, to organizations, to your parents, your grandparents, … Everyone is welcome! You can even use the #GAAD hashtag!

Online or In Person?

GAAD events can be held in all desired settings. If you want to schedule an official meetup, circumstances allowing, then do it. Want to schedule a webinar, feel free as well! Notify your friends, the accessibility community, and anyone you might think would benefit from your event.

What Do I Do For GAAD?

GAAD is what you make of it. The official website makes some recommendations, but you don’t have to follow those. The main goal is to promote digital accessibility.
Perhaps you should sit down with a screen reader. Download some magnification software. Download accessibility tools like AXE plugin for Chrome or even Lighthouse to analyze accessibility score of a website.
I mentioned events. GAAD commonly consists of events held by a number of people, or groups of people, that highlight different topics in accessibility. You can organize your own, or join others if allowed.

How Is ScreenlessAllies Participating?

We are a relatively new website. I feel we’re helping in the cause by providing these informative blog posts. If you visited this article, we’ve done our job. We want to promote accessibility as it relates to people who are blind. So while you’re hear, check out our other blog posts.

Conclusion

Global Accessibility Awareness Day is something I personally only heard about recently. It is a growing cause, and it holds value to us here at ScreenlessAllies. We hope you join us in promoting digital accessibility and participate by contributing to the digital world with this perspective in mind.

Categories
Atechability

Atechability Number 5: The Screenless Guide to NVDA Envy

In this post, I will write about one of our favorite screenless technologies, NVDA. Specifically, I want to provide some insight into what the NVDA certification is, why it might benefit you, and how you can prepare to take the exam.

What Is The NVDA Certification?

Non-Visual Desktop Access, or NVDA, is a free open-source screen reader that’s been around since 2008. A screen reader is software that reads the screen out to people through speech. You can read a bit more about screen readers here. NV Access, the makers of the screen reader, offers an optional certification that can be obtained. Taking the test is free, but the certification costs around $75 USD. In addition to obtaining proof of understanding of NVDA’s features, you are financially supporting this non-profit organization by purchasing the certificate. The questions range from understanding simple keyboard commands used in NVDA, to understanding how things are spoken by NVDA.

When Can You Take The Exam?

The test is an online exam consisting of multiple choice questions. The exam can be taken online at any time of the day. All you have to do is go to the NV Access certification portal and register for an account.

Where Can I Take The Exam?

As mentioned, the test is administered online. There is no testing center scheduling required, or even proctoring. You have the option of taking it in the comfort of your own home on your personal computer. This test is on the honor system, so don’t cheat!

Why Do I Need This Certification?

You might be asking, why would I take this exam if this is a free screen reader? This might be a simple answer depending on profession, motivation, or willingness to learn. My reasons are as follows:

  • By purchasing a certification, you are supporting this non-profit organization in their quest to making technology as widely available to blind people.

  • It is good to have a credential when offering services related to a product, in this case, NVDA.

  • According to this WebAIM survey, NVDA slightly surpasses its main competitor as being the most used primary screen reader by people with disabilities. Therefore there is some value in knowing this software well.

Who Can Benefit?

It is my belief that this certification may benefit you if you’re:

  • an assistive technology trainer working with blind people
  • an accessibility consultant working on a number of technologies including web, PDF, and desktop applications
  • a teacher or instructor of visually impaired people and you want to teach students how to use this free product
  • a blind individual who wants to solidify their understanding of NVDA
  • and finally, any other profession or occupation I may not have mentioned having to do with technology and blind people

OK, Now How Do I Actually Prepare?

The preparation process is simpler than you might think. The biggest helper in this endeavor is to actually download NVDA from the NV Access Website. After downloading, there is some great help to be found in NVDA’s help Menu. Do the following to access the Help menu:

  • First, open the NVDA Menu by pressing the Insert and N keys together on your keyboard.
  • Then, arrow down using either the up arrow or down arrow keys on your keyboard until you hear Help Submenu, h.
  • Expand this submenu by pressing the right arrow key on your keyboard.
  • Now, the first option is User Guide. If you want to review in-depth documentation, this is the place to go. And in fact, this is from where the test gets most of its questions. You can press Enter.
  • Otherwise, if this is too overwhelming, the second menu option in the help menu is the Commands Quick Reference option. This gives concrete keyboard hotkeys that can be used to explore by doing. Fair warning, there are quite a few commands, so you may need time to digest them.

Alternatively, if you desire a more structured approach to learning, NV Access offers an training module eBook which helps users get to grips with this screen reader from the very beginning. Again, this purchase will also support NV Access directly.

Conclusion

I hope this post provided some insight into the benefits of obtaining this certification, as well as providing some guidance as to how you can self-prepare to take the exam. Best of luck if you decide to embark on this journey to learning and certifying. NVDA is, in my opinion, a revolutionary product, and it is my goal to encourage as many people as possible to use this software.