Ideas for Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)

Published: 10-04-2024

Read time: 17 minutes

Tags: accessibility

Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is coming up on May 16th! GAAD is a perfect opportunity to celebrate your accessibility progress, get people engaged in the work, and to talk loudly about accessibility. In this post, I’m sharing some ideas you might find helpful for your GAAD activities.

Events and workshops

I have had a lot of success with talks and workshops during GAAD. They’re a powerful way to get people engaged with the work.

Host a talk, webinar or panel discussion

I’ve done both internal talks and paid external speakers to deliver talks during GAAD. Paid speakers can add more weight to your work; hearing an outside perspective definitely has its benefits.

Last year, I talked to everyone at Monzo about “Accessibility in numbers.” It spoke a bit about accessibility, the social and medical models of disability, and some stats from the Family Resources Survey.

I then reframed them to show what they meant within the context of our business. I used the how-many app and the Department for Education’s “how many users” calculators to generate some stats around disabilities within the context of our x million customers. This landed very, very well! It was very high-level, and it meant something to everyone there.

Remember to tailor your talks to your audience and assume they know nothing. If the talk is for an all-staff call, you might want to consider things like:

  • inviting (and paying!) disabled speakers to talk to your company about accessibility
  • an introduction to accessibility
  • accessibility in numbers
  • common accessibility fails and why they’re important
  • progress updates

If you’re presenting to more specific audiences, like, let’s say, a user-centered design community, you could cover things like:

  • common design/content/test/code issues (again, be relatively light on the detail because you don’t want people dozing off when they don’t understand the detail)
  • an introduction to assistive technologies
  • accessible service design guide
  • show and tells
  • running an accessibility clinc where teams can come to you about specific problems

If you’re talking to specific disciplines, you can go into all the low-level details because they will understand them within the context of their role. You could also consider things like a knowledge sharing sessions where people can share different books, tutorials or articles they’ve found.

Run workshops

Running workshops can be a powerful way to demystify accessibility and build capability at the same time.

You could consider things like:

  • an assistive technology workshop
  • an introduction to accessibility testing
  • an inclusive user research workshop
  • an accessible design workshop
  • creating accessible documents workshop
  • accessible social media content workshop
  • an introduction to accessible content design
  • common accessibility fails (and how to fix them)
  • a cognitive biases workshop
  • an accessibility empathy lab session
  • host an ideation session where you think about what amazing looks like, or run a gap assessment session to identify opportunites for improvement

I could write hundreds more. How detailed or high-level you want to make your workshops is up to you. I advise looking for gaps in capability and engaging that specific area for more impact.

Community enagegement

If you’re looking to go beyond basic accessibility compliance, engaging your users should be front and centre of your approach. Understanding and solving the real challenges they are facing will help you build a much better, accessible product.

Social media campaigns

Use the #GAAD hashtag and share informative posts about accessibility. You can create infographics, short videos, or accessibility tips and share them throughout the week.

Blog posts or articles

Write about the importance of accessibility and the benefits it offers to everyone. Don’t be afraid to put content out; you don’t have to have done some groundbreaking work. Most people are thrilled to see progress over perfection. Some other ideas could be:

  • talk about your progress, celebrate the work you’ve done this year
  • talk about what you’ve found during research (Monzo wrote a great article on why ADHD can cost you £1600 a year)
  • talk about your roadmap, or your strategy
  • talk about what you’re doing for GAAD!
  • write a tutorial on something accessibility related

Again, the world is your oyster with this type of content. You’ll probably have loads to talk about!

Host a podcast

Get a few people interested in accessibility together and have a podcast discussion. You could also ask someone in the community if they’d be down for an interview or debate. You could make multiple and put them out over time.

Host a Q&A session

Invite an accessibility expert to answer questions from your community on social media or a live platform.

Host listening sessions

Listening sessions are a brilliant exercise. You can invite individuals or groups to come and contribute to a discussion to express their thoughts and opinions on your product or a specific topic.

These are done with your users or even disability charities who can speak on behalf of groups of people. If you do a listening event with a charity, they can ask their communities questions and give feedback during the session. If you invite disabled people to contribute, ensure this is a paid gig.

If you’re working for a small business without user research capability, listening sessions are a fantastic source of qualitative data.

Call to action

GAAD is an excellent way to get commitment so you can get the ball rolling for accessibility work. With everything I have covered, you should be looking for opportunities to identify sponsors for the work. Expand your network as much as you can.

Carry out an accessibility audit of your website, documents or office space to identify areas for improvement

If you’re just getting started, you could see about getting an accessibility audit done. An audit helps you understand the current state of play. It’s also something you could blog about.

Launch some training

I did this at Monzo, and it meant that every single person will have basic accessibility training. You can expand this to role-based training. Even if it’s not mandatory, GAAD is a good opportunity to launch any type of training.

Host a hackathon

A hackathon is an event where people engage in rapid and collaborative engineering over a relatively short period, such as 24 or 48 hours.

We loved a hackathon when I was at Monzo. You could feed into a board of ideas, and then people would vote on the hackathon’s focus, usually picking a few of them to build. Accessibility ideas would almost always be picked up, which was great! They’re a solid mechanism to get some stuff done outside business cases and other priorities.

Establish an accessibility champions network

Accessibility champions networks are a force multiplier for a lot of organisations. Because accessibility teams don’t exist often or are tiny, launching a network of like-minded folk is a great way to start thinking about what you might want to do to improve accessibility. Champions networks can also open many doors and help take the work forward.

Look out for events that your team can attend

Over the years, I’ve always made time for my teams to attend other GAAD events. There’s usually a lot going on, and you’ll always learn something new. LinkedIn is an excellent source to find events happening during GAAD.

Volunteer your time

This year, I have committed some time to helping others in the community. Accessibility can be a slog, especially when you’re just starting out. I’ve had a lot of help from others in this wonderful community, and I like to pay it forward.

I’d encourage others to do the same. Having someone else who is an outsider to your company could be the leverage you need to get the buy-in you’ve been trying to get or the commitment to make the change.