Celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day

·4 min read

On May 20, we celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), a day focused on digital access and inclusion for the more than one billion people around the world with disabilities.

At Yahoo, we’re deeply committed to ensuring our products are accessible to all. Our dedication to people with disabilities goes back to the creation of our first Yahoo Accessibility Lab in Sunnyvale, CA 15 years ago. We continue that focus today, and are active participants in a Born Accessible movement that drives us to create products that are inclusive from their first release. Earlier this year, we committed to featuring closed captions on 100 percent of new user-facing videos, and we’ve donated $5 million in ad space in 2021 to a number of respected disability organizations to support their advocacy work.

We believe that if done right, technology can power a more equitable and just society for everyone, regardless of your ability, race, gender, income level, sexual orientation, or any other way you identify.

To bring this sentiment to life on GAAD, we partnered with disabled graphic designer Jessica Oddi. Jessica created a bespoke visual for Yahoo representing love, inclusion, and connection in the disabled community. Read below to learn more about Jessica’s work.

Art of 9 disabled people varying in gender, race, and size. Including a cane and manual wheelchair user, an Autistic person, someone with scoliosis and a prosthetic leg, a person with Down Syndrome, a Blind person, a Little Person in a power wheelchair, a person with chronic illness, and a Deaf person.
On May 20, we celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), a day focused on digital access and inclusion for the more than one billion people around the world with disabilities.

Image Description: Colourful vector illustration of 9 disabled people. A gay couple kissing; an Asian cane user and a Middle Eastern wheelchair user with a stoma bag. A white Autistic cis person with vitiligo, sitting down with headphones. A Black gender fluid person with scoliosis and a prosthetic leg doing the peace sign with a South Asian woman with Down Syndrome. A Blind Muslim woman with a hijab walking with a white cane. A two-spirit Indigenous Little Person, sitting in a power wheelchair with a trach tube. A white man with chronic illness, signing "call me" to a Black Deaf woman waving hello, wearing a hearing aid.

Why is GAAD meaningful to you personally?

GAAD is something near and dear to me, since I'm part of this beautiful community. Having a still-to-be-diagnosed form of Muscular Dystrophy since birth, it's a big part of my identity. I'm a very proud disabled person. And I find that education on accessibility is lacking outside of our community. These moments are to celebrate us. But they are also for non-disabled people to recognize that accessibility is a human right. It's 2021. It's time for global access.

Where did you draw inspiration for this design?

My inspiration came from the community that accessibility is here to serve. Many times GAAD focuses around the tech, or from a non-disabled perspective. Often lumped with the idea that "accessibility benefits everyone". Which is very true! But that's not why I want people to make things accessible.

I want it to serve the disabled community. We've been fighting for access from a world not built for us for a long time. And in this digital age, we've found ways to carve out our own spaces. Yet there are still barriers. Non-disabled people could help remove them. If they paid attention to what disabled people are doing, they could follow our expertise.

So instead of focusing on the practices, I wanted this to be a tribute to my community. This is my love letter to disabled folks around the world. To those always fighting for accessibility out of necessity. To the beautiful diversity that exists within our disabled spaces.

Many disabled advocates adopt the term "Nothing About Us Without Us". And this piece is a reminder of who this day is all about. It's time the rest of the globe "step" up their game and get on our level for accessibility.

How do you hope people react to this artwork?

I hope disabled people can witness themselves in this artwork. That they feel represented, empowered, and most of all, loved. Even down to the little details, from stoma bags and trachs, to invisible disabilities.

I also hope non-disabled people can get a fresh perspective on what it means to be disabled. To take a second and think outside the stereotype. Disability doesn't look a certain way; it's far more than a wheelchair. We are a diverse group, spanning across all races, genders, sexualities, ages, and sizes.

What measures do you take to ensure all of your work is accessible for all?

I go through a series of processes. First off, making sure the project is meeting my client's access needs. Asking if they have a preferred method of communication, timeline, and budget. For the work itself, depending on the scope I test my work through a series of guides. Testing contrast and colour blindness simulations. Following Web Content Accessibility Guidelines for type and web. Adding practices I've learned from the community throughout the years.

Accessibility is a flexible process. It changes with time, and sometimes compromises need to happen to gear to specific groups. But I work for the individual. Finding new solutions tailored for each project. Building with and for the community.

More about Jessica.

Jessica Oddi is a disabled, freelance graphic designer with ten years of experience. She specializes in accessible design, disability representation, and inclusion. Based in Canada, Jess loves working on projects that empower marginalized communities. (Bio by Karli Drew.) She also spends her downtime running The Disabled Life with her sister Lianna.

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