Global Accessibility Awareness Day: May 20, 2021

May 14, 2021 | Melanie L.

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May 20, 2021 is the tenth annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). This is a great day to think about digital inclusion.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day Logo

Approximately 1 billion people worldwide have disabilities. Despite the numbers, web designers don't always consider their needs. Removing barriers to technology enables people. As Apple CEO Tim Cook says, accessibility democratizes technology. 

Digital accessibility is particularly important in 2021. Many people with disabilities have increased risk of infection and complications from COVID-19. Accessible technology enables people with disabilities to work and socialize safely from home.

In 2020, accessibility group WebAIM studied 1 million websites and found fewer than 2% were fully accessible. They also found an average of 60.2 accessibility errors per site. It doesn't have to be this way. Haben Girma is the first Deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School. In her popular book, Girma says that disability is part of the human experience, and that “inclusion is a choice.”

Accessible technology creates a better experience for everyone. Even people without disabilities use accessibility features. A perfect example of this is smart home automation. Some people with disabilities use automation to maintain their independence. Others simply enjoy its conveniences.


Accessibility Functions

Here are just a few ways that designers can create more inclusive websites.

  1. Alternative Text. Alternative Text (also called Alt Text) describes an image for users who are blind or have low vision. Alt text also describes the function of a feature on a website, such as a link or a clickable button. Without alt text, a person who uses a screen reader will not know what they are clicking or why.
  2. Captions. Captions enable people who are Deaf or hard of hearing to watch and understand videos. Captioning includes a real-time transcript of dialogue plus a description of the sounds. Captions might also help people who have auditory processing disorders or developmental disabilities. 
  3. Keyboard Navigation. People with motor disabilities may need to use their keyboard only instead of a mouse. However, few websites are designed with this capability. The #NoMouse Challenge is a global movement to raise awareness about accessible web design. Take a moment to look at a website you use often. Does it pass the challenge?
  4. Plain Language. People with learning disabilities may prefer text written in plain language. Examples of plain language include short sentences and paragraphs. It could also mean avoiding overly complicated technical terms or jargon. Plain language isn’t only helpful for people with disabilities. Everyone benefits from information that is presented clearly. 
  5. Headings and sub-headings. Headings break up content into chunks of related information. Headings help people who use screen readers follow the flow of information on a site. This can also help people with cognitive disabilities.
  6. Contrast. Strong colour contrast enables people with low vision to differentiate images and text. This is especially important for action items such as links or clickable buttons.


Digital Accessibility Features at the Toronto Public Library

Did you know that ebook readers can enable dyslexic font in OverDrive? Or adjust reading settings to increase font size or change contrast? Check out this blog post to learn about accessible reading options with Toronto Public Library's digital resources.  

Learn how to turn on captioning in the library’s streaming services including Kanopy, Hoopla, and others.

See what assistive technology is available at Toronto Public Library branches (pending Provincial regulations regarding access to the branches).

Also be sure to read about the library's other accessible collections



Accessibility should be integrated into all stages of web design. If you are a creator of online content, this Global Accessibility Awareness Day we encourage you to think about making your website more accessible. Here are a few resources to assist you.

Free Online Courses

LinkedIn Learning (formerly called offers a number of courses on accessibility, including a 2-hour course called Accessibility for Web Design. Courses are free to anyone with a valid Toronto Public Library card or Digital Access Card


Inclusive design for a digital world

Inclusive Design for a Digital World (ebook)


Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design

Practical web inclusion and accessibility

Practical Web Inclusion and Accessibility (ebook)

Digital outcasts

Digital Outcasts



These third-party websites contain excellent information and resources.