The evolution of digital accessibility over the decades

Image source: Celina Oseguera.

By Andrew Kirkpatrick

Posted on 05-20-2021

Today, we celebrate the tenth Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) — an important milestone in getting everyone talking, thinking, and learning more about accessibility. With more than 1 billion people worldwide living with disabilities, today marks a significant day for us to recognize this community and help support these individuals throughout their daily lives whether that is in the workplace, school, or beyond.

For GAAD, I want to take a moment to look at how far we’ve come on the topic of accessibility — moving from a “grassroots” effort to a must-have, and how the industry can continue to support people with disabilities by keeping accessibility at the forefront.

A look back at accessibility — removing barriers and unlocking new possibilities

Over 30 years ago, we saw significant progress for individuals with disabilities due in large part to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) signed by President H.W. Bush. Even though this brought important change for people with disabilities in the physical world as it relates to jobs, schools, transportation, and more, the digital world still included significant barriers.

Digital accessibility is an area that was often overlooked, and with the Internet growing quickly and in use widely around the world, it needed guidelines and processes in place to better serve individuals with disabilities. Over the years, we have seen significant changes that pushed for more accessibility in the digital world, such as the first web accessibility guidelines established in 1999 (WCAG 1.0), updates to the Section 508 standards to be more current with modern technology, new FCC regulations based on the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), continuous updates to accessibility standards, among others. While these milestones have played a huge role in making websites and digital content more accessible, more work lies ahead as 97.4 percent of U.S.-based webpages are still not accessible to the disability community from a legal perspective.

Accessibility has moved up on the list of product roadmap priorities, but unfortunately is still not always an automatic default. Building accessibility early into the development processes can give companies the best chance at staying ahead of accessibility best practices, and most importantly, giving people access to products, no matter their ability.

As remote work continues to evolve, we must bring forward the opportunities and challenges of technology to make it simpler for users and companies to build accessibility into the start of the product roadmap journey. This can be done through various ways, including:

Celebrating GAAD at Adobe

Accessibility is the utmost priority at Adobe, both within our products as well as within our culture. We work to enable people of all abilities to access our products by continually building accessibility into our product and design development. We also work closely with our employees to elevate their unique voices and encourage them to get involved in various ways. For example, we make regular updates to our Blue Belt accessibility training program to educate employees on how to evolve and adapt to new ways of building accessibility by default.

For Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we wanted to share a few updates on how we are continuing to raise awareness for Accessibility:

The work doesn’t end here

Even though we have had an exciting year and want to mark this important milestone, we also recognize there is more work to do. We are continuing to make progress in our product innovations, as well as building additional tools internally to help us implement accessibility standards even further.

Please join us in celebrating this day and in continuing to help make the world a better place for people with differing abilities — have a great Global Accessibility Awareness Day everyone!

Topics: Responsibility, Diversity & Inclusion, Document Cloud, Community

Products: Adobe Sensei, Document Cloud,