May 17, 2018: 7th Annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Today is the seventh annual global accessibility awareness day (GAAD) when people around the world encourage mainstream technology developers to think of and include options for those who cannot use conventional means. :sunglasses:

This all started back in 2011 when one backend developer issued a simple challenge to the developer community:

On this day, every web developer will be urged to test at least one page on their site in an accessibility tool. After fixing up the page, they are urged to blog about what they changed and inspire others to follow suit.

Since then, it has expanded significantly, with the current mission:

The target audience of GAAD is the design, development, usability, and related communities who build, shape, fund and influence technology and its use. While people may be interested in the topic of making technology accessible and usable by persons with disabilities, the reality is that they often do not know how or where to start. Awareness comes first.

For more information and a list of today’s events and activities:

Among other events, most Apple stores are holding free seminars on the accessibility features of their devices. This can be a great way to introduce developers, even individual hobby coders, to VoiceOver options, for example.

The BBC is live-blogging an expert panel discussion on accessible design. Among their important observations:

So much of the this accessible, helpful tech used to be very expensive when it was aimed at a niche market of disabled users. The best thing that’s happening right now is everyone using this tech, bringing the cost right down, making it commonplace.

There are lots of other events today, both online and in person, for those who are interested. ( The online ones will typically be archived for future reference in case you were coming to this post after the day itself.)

I am unaware of any Samsung or SmartThings participation— if there are any, please let us know. ( if there aren’t any, you might want to start thinking about next year. :wink:)

@vlad @jtqa


IDevices had a nice blog feature on GAAD this year, including A profile of a 21-year-old man with cerebral palsy who was able to turn on the light switches for himself in his home for the first time ever this year, thanks to home automation technology.

Earlier this year, at age 21, Harold was able to control the lights in his home for the first time using an iDevices product — a truly eye-opening experience for the iDevices team.

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Excellent Mashable article giving some GAAD background, and emphasizing the available seminars on developer tools, including a free session from the American Foundation for the Blind.

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From the Microsoft 2018 GAAD film (which unfortunately has a really intrusive registration requirement, they even want your phone number :disappointed_relieved:, but you can find it elsewhere on the web)

{if you aren’t offering accessibility options} it’s like saying to every fifth person who walks in your door, I don’t want your business. It just doesn’t make sense.”

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Microsoft is coming in late to the party (no jokes!) but will be holding free accessibility workshops for five days starting May 29 in most local Microsoft stores in the US. Check your local store to see if they will be participating.

Thanks for the info! Just in time. There’s one today in mpls so I’ll be going to that. As far as I know, ST doesn’t participate, so I’ll check it out and see if I can get ST to do it next year.
Thanks again!



IBM’s Emphasis in this area is on tools and standards for developers. For a couple of years they have been sponsoring an open source project to collect code that uses specific accessible technology features so that it will serve as a repository for developers who want to View exactly how these features work on various platforms. So the discussions will be highly technical, but it’s a useful resource.

This year‘s blog article:

And the project itself:

Recently, Arvind Krishna, SVP and director of IBM Research, made a comment along the lines of: “If you want to get people interested in what you’re working on, don’t talk to them about it – SHOW THEM”. That idea is the basis behind the Va11yS project.
When designers and developers are new to accessibility, it’s easy for them to get overwhelmed by all of the standards, laws, and regulations. Instead of having them get mired in checklists and the language behind them, why not show them how accessibility works – and how it is to implement – via live, working code samples?
Va11yS, or Verified Accessibility Samples, is a repository of live working code samples that designers and developers can easily access to test with different assistive technologies and tools.

Most people in the US have heard of the ADA, but unless you work in a compliance office or have a disability yourself, you probably haven’t heard of “section 508.“ This is the law that governs accessibility requirements for services sold to (or in some cases provided by) the federal government.

Anyway, they have a blog post for GAAD this year highlighting recent changes to section 508 Which went into effect in January 2018.

With the Revised 508 Standards and the UD approach to accessibility, we hope to simplify accessibility and shed light on its benefits for everyone. On Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we’re proud to partner with agencies across the Federal government to champion accessibility for all. How are you tackling accessibility at your organization? Share your accomplishments and tips on social media with the hashtag #gaad.

We, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board or Board), are revising and updating, in a single rulemaking, our standards for electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by Federal agencies covered by section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as well as our guidelines for telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment covered by Section 255 of the Communications Act of 1934. The revisions and updates to the section 508-based standards and section 255-based guidelines are intended to ensure that information and communication technology covered by the respective statutes is accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.

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The Minneapolis one looks good! Come back and share if you learn anything interesting. :sunglasses:

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Nice official statement of support from the Canadian government

One of the Government of Canada’s priorities to create a truly inclusive and accessible Canada—where all Canadians have an equal opportunity to succeed, have the same rights and obligations, and are equal participants in their communities and workplaces. Technology and internet are essential in day-to-day life. As such, we need to make sure that people with disabilities can fully participate in the online world.
Although technology can unlock great potential for many who live with disabilities, it is only useful if people with disabilities have access to it. Some of the tools developed to help people with disabilities use computers such as screen readers, assistive mobile applications and alternative keyboards, are truly life changing. However, the reality is that a digital divide still exists and we need to bridge that gap. We need to ensure these tools are available to those who need them and that technology is designed so that it is accessible from the start.



Yes, thanks! … @625alex


So did ST ever fix all the problems with voiceover on iOS?

What’s it been, like a year now?

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More than a year, and no. :disappointed_relieved:

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That’s really freaking lame.

I’d like to think that the devs/engineers care about this, at least. But they’re not the ones in charge.

It’s pretty clear that management doesn’t, though.


The coders May care, but they don’t know how to add accessibility options. And the testers don’t know how to test.There are multiple places on multiple screens were the navigation gets trapped and you can’t go anywhere else, or you can only go to the wrong place.

See the bold black line going around the frame holding all the smartapp selections? (The black box tells you where voiceover has assigned focus.)

That shouldn’t happen, but once it does, you can’t select any of the individual smartapps anymore.

And pretty much any pop-up will break navigation.

Remember that the person who is blind has no idea where they are tapping on the screen. They listen until they hear the item they want to select, then they tap once. That is supposed to assign focus to that selectable item. At that point, they should be able to tap twice anywhere on the screen to activate the selected item.

It’s the second step that the smartthings mobile app fails at, quite often. I can usually, although not always, hear the selections. I can tap once and select focus. But what will happen when I then double tap is anybody’s guess. :disappointed_relieved: It might activate the item I selected, it might activate a completely different item, it might not do anything, it might change the focus. Sometimes it starts reading me the editing details, Like font size, for a different non-selectable field. It’s just unusable.

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There’s no reason to excuse them.

Either Samsung & SmartThings is committed to accessibility, or they are not, or they genuinely are interested in becoming accessible but then should frankly and publicly should admit that they are not willing or able to allocate resources at this time.

Unless I recall incorrectly, SmartThings staff made explicit promises to this Community to address their App accessibility issues. Just like other such promises… this isn’t rocket :rocket: science - particularly for a company that has thousands of employees (and, by the way is a 15 minute Tesla drive away from NASA).

ActionTiles does not promise any features, including accessibility … but we think ActionTiles has a great opportunity to be a good “accessible” control for SmartThings homes, but we don’t know whether or not we can expend the necessary resources. We have had a few inquiries (including from various organizations that provide home upgrade services and other technology to their clients), but so far none have expressed a serious interest to work with us. I don’t expect that our potential special needs customers should have to make particular efforts, but we would be motivated by professional organizations that already work in this area and recognize AT as a possible tool in their arsenal.


You recall correctly. I gave ST a less-than-stellar review on Amazon, highlighting this issue a year ago. Within a day or two, I received an email from some marketing dweeb telling me how important it is to the company.