Insights and Perspectives

Insights and Perspectives


Read the latest from Geographic Solutions.


It Starts with One Voice

Who knew a single blog post could spark an accessibility movement on a global scale? In 2011, web developer Joe Devon posted a blog entry calling for greater awareness of accessibility and for the creation of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). In a 2019 interview with Interactive Accessibility Podcast, Joe Devon tells the story of where the inspiration behind the blog post came from: his father, “a brilliant man … [who] spoke 10 languages, was a Holocaust survivor,” was trying to use a banking website but it was not accessible. Joe said of this frustrating experience, “It was painful to watch him get older and not be able to access a website.”

Joe Devon admits he had the expectation that his idea for a day of accessibility awareness would go nowhere. He stated, “I wasn't even smart enough to tweet this out. WordPress had an automated tweet thing so it tweeted out my blog post.” That’s where Jennison Asuncion, an accessibility professional, came across Joe’s blog. Jennison contacted Joe via Twitter, and they joined forces to create the worldwide day of observance. Thanks to their efforts, GAAD is observed on the third Thursday of May each year, driving awareness of accessibility issues. 

What Does Accessibility Mean?

In a post-COVID 19 world, the need for digital accessibility is more prevalent than ever. Social distancing requirements stimulated an increase in the reliance upon electronic activities such as shopping, banking, entertainment, work, healthcare, and more. For many people with disabilities, this may have provided additional access to opportunities they may have been limited or nonexistent previously — such as remote work opportunities or access to virtual services like entertainment and healthcare. Deque Systems collaborated with the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) to survey 292 accessibility practitioners in 2020 and followed up in 2021 with 270 responses. They found that although awareness around digital accessibility was higher than anticipated, accessibility complaints from people with disabilities increased.
Accessibility means that a person with a disability must be able to experience web-based services, content, or other digital products with the same successful outcome as those without disabilities. In the U.S. alone 61 million adults live with a disability — that’s 26% of the adult population — and 1 billion people worldwide are living with disabilities. Of those American adults who make up the working population, 19.1% have a disability. Digital access and inclusion is not just crucial, it is an absolute requirement for an equitable world.

Digital accessibility is not a new topic. It was 1998 when Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to include electronic and information technology accessibility. Job hunting is difficult enough but navigating a system that is inherently working against you makes it near impossible, and remote service delivery has transformed more than one workforce development office. The North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Guilford County (Greensboro) teams found creative ways to continue high levels of service delivery through their use of no-touch tools. The pandemic pushed many services to be provided virtually and accelerated the development of many no-touch tools

Creating an Accessible Experience for Every User

As a software development company, Geographic Solutions recognizes the large role it owns in creating accessible web applications and strives to bring ease-of-use to its products for all users.

Each site we develop provides the same modern accessibility technology including keyboard shortcuts, alternative text and descriptions for images, usability with alternative computer technology, clear and simple text language, and the use of WAI-ARIA markup for screen readers. In addition to the accessibility features, our sites employ logical and consistent navigation to allow for navigation via keyboard shortcuts both vertically (within the page) and horizontally (between pages). Hyperlinks are described with meaningful location text, and hidden headers can be used to navigate the site.

But for us, it is about more than just accessibility. Part of inclusion is empathy. When we feel empathy for others, we are more likely to find the ways to include them. In previous years, our in-house accessibility team executed Disability Awareness Labs to demonstrate the challenges faced by people living with disabilities. For 2022, Deque Systems, an authority in digital accessibility, is offering both an Accessibility Awareness Lab and a Fundamentals Bootcamp online

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