Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) 2024 at t'works

Opening up the digital world to more people should be our collective goal

In 2024 Global Accessibility Awareness Day falls on Thursday 16th May. Its aim is to get us all thinking about the barriers people experience when they want to participate fully in the digital universe and what we can do to break these barriers down. It is a day we should all be taking note of because so many of us are directly affected by what it represents and we almost certainly know someone among our family and friends who experiences some form of digital exclusion.

Facts, campaigns and law

According to the World Health Organization, 1.3 billion people live with a ‘significant disability’, that’s 1 in 6 of us. It is a number that is on the rise and many people with disabilities are also subject to higher rates of poverty and ill health compared to those who are non-disabled. They often struggle to take advantage of the services, information and entertainment that the connected world offers.

The United Nations believes that digital access is a basic human right and is campaigning for digital inclusion for all – one of the ‘8 key areas for action’ on its digital cooperation roadmap.

The World Wide Web Consortium is a non-profit organization working to develop universal standards for the internet. It has devised a set of principles for web accessibility based on digital content being  ‘perceivable, operable, understandable and robust’ which form the basis of digital accessibility law in many nations. Dozens of countries now have their own regulations, including the USA, Europe and the UK. Significantly the European Accessibility Act will come into force in June 2025 and requires companies to implement accessibility measures for (amongst other things) websites, audiovisual media and e-commerce systems.

Language access or digital accessibility?

In a recent post we discussed the importance of language access and of adding more languages to all types of public-facing content. More languages do of course mean including more people in conversations that affect them at both local and global levels – but making websites and media available in multiple languages often isn’t enough. Digital content needs to be fully accessible to as many people as possible whatever their language or disability.

What is digital accessibility and how can it be achieved?

Websites, apps, online education courses, software, music, eBooks and video games are all examples of digital products and for many of us, they play a significant role in our daily lives. For people living with disabilities, however, using them isn’t always easy.

Although the technology and tools exist to improve accessibility, they are still widely absent from digital products. Much more could be done to assist people with disabilities. These are just a few examples.

  • For people who are visually impaired or blind, alt text descriptions on images should be added and audio descriptions for videos can be helpful.
  • People who are deaf or hard of hearing are helped by captioning for videos and visual signals instead of audio cues.
  • Those with cognitive or learning disabilities benefit from plain language and clear, uncrowded design.
  • For people living with motor impairments, enabling interaction via voice, text or gesture technology is often essential.

Even for people without a recognized impairment, these assistive technologies can be beneficial.

Older generations who didn’t grow up with digital tools can take advantage of easier website navigation and plain language. In ‘mobile-first’ markets where the majority of online activity is via a smartphone, users can benefit from adapted layouts and design, for example, optimized color contrast. Increasingly people use captioning for viewing without sound in noisy or public places and read subtitles in their second languages to improve their vocabulary and understanding.

How can the language industry help?

Translation is only one element of the communication process. Translation providers like t’works now offer many language-related services as part of their portfolio and enabling accessibility is a natural extension of any localization strategy.

Localizing content for an audience means that everything the audience sees, reads or listens to feels like it was made just for them. Language, cultural references, page layout, payment options, measurements, time periods and so on are all adapted to their local expectations. Localization enables the message to reach its intended audience more easily.

Logically, improving accessibility extends the reach of the localized and multilingual content even further. Taking into consideration, for example, what types and sizes of fonts are used to allow for different language lengths or optimizing text for accessible tools like screen readers which prefer plain language with no acronyms and jargon, are just a couple of ways accessibility can be integrated into the localization process.

Language specialists are also involved in enabling a broader reach for audiovisual media. Their services can include sign language interpreting, audio description, Braille transcription, voiceover and closed captioning, all of which give better accessibility to different groups.

With their swift adoption of the latest language technologies, language services providers are well-placed to implement the new generation of artificial intelligence tools which are bringing more content to more people. AI is now being used to support closed captioning and subtitling and in areas like live transcription and speech-to-text technology.

Everyone benefits from accessibility

Accessibility isn’t about making concessions; it’s about making sure everyone in society can flourish in the digital world. And it isn’t just people living with disabilities who benefit, the positive effects are widespread.

Companies that provide multilingual and accessible content will increase the number of people who can learn about their products and services, expanding their potential customer base. They will also strengthen their brand name, company image, and increase the trust people have in their business.

Legal compliance is becoming increasingly important and in the field of accessibility especially. When expanding into new markets, considering the accessibility requirements as well as the multilingual ones, is essential.

But more than anything else, accessibility is a step to creating the inclusive and caring world we all want to live in. Ensuring that digital opportunities are equal for everyone regardless of what language they speak or what disability they live with, is something we should all be working towards.

Talk to t’works today about how we can help you create content that is both multilingual and accessible. Get in touch with us at the link below.

Your personal contact

Marie-Laure Vinckx

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