Every year since the early days of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), companies have been making accessibility-related announcements in its honor. For instance, Disability Lifestyle Magazine launched its more accessible website in honor of GAAD in 2014. We've posted a ten-year GAAD timeline that looks at the major announcements and other newsmakers from the first decade. 

Now that GAAD events have passed and the Diamond team has caught its breath, we've been pouring over announcements that bore out of GAAD. With more people becoming aware of GAAD, more companies are taking notice. And it's heartening.

Here are some of the GAAD 2021 announcements of note.

Adobe Looks at Its Evolution of Digital Accessibility

In the evolution of digital accessibility over the decades, Adobe Head of Accessibility, Andrew Kirkpatrick, shares how Adobe continues to raise awareness for accessibility. Adobe offers an accessibility training program called Blue Belt. Initially, it provided eight hours of online training for engineers and testers to learn the basics of digital accessibility.

Over the years, Blue Belt added more job roles and evolved into in-person training around the world. In honor of GAAD 2021, Adobe has stated Blue Belt will return online and become more interactive. The training will also incorporate the work of Teach Access.

In January 2020, Adobe joined the Valuable 500 pledging they are investing in technology and process standards for accessibility and making a commitment to disability inclusion that includes training and employment opportunities. This year, the Valuable 500 has secured all 500 global CEOs' commitments.

The company's Adobe Color has released Contrast Checker to guide designers in making choices with the best contrast ratio for readability. The Adobe Design Research and Strategy team released A Practical Guide to Inclusive Research. This collection of articles delves into inclusive design research. 

Apple Releases Updates for People with Disabilities

On GAAD, Apple publicizes its many new updates to its software to support people with mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive disabilities. The first of which is the launching of SignTime that allows customers to communicate with AppleCare and Retail Customer Care using American Sign Language in the U.S., British Sign Language in the U.K., or French Sign Language in France from their web browsers.

The Wall Street Journal has a story about a new feature called AssistiveTouch for the Apple Watch. It allows people to navigate without touching the screen. The story quotes Joe Devon, the co-founder of GAAD and Diamond.

Apple also says the iPad will support eye-tracking hardware for easier control. For those who are blind or low vision, Apple's VoiceOver screen reader will have on-device intelligence to explore objects within images.

To support neurodiverse individuals, Apple has introduced new background sounds to limit distractions. And for the deaf or hard of hearing, Made for iPhone (MFi) will support new bi-directional hearing aids for hands-free phone and FaceTime conversations.

BlindSquare Announces a First

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of GAAD and in cooperation with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), BlindSquare announces it's providing free and unexpired access to BlindSquare EVENT for all of Canada. The iOS app uses GPS and a compass to determine the user's location to tells the person about their surroundings and helps them navigate.

CIBC Raises Accessibility Awareness with an Inclusive Design Challenge

Financial institution CIBC has unveiled the four focus areas of the MaRS-CIBC Inclusive Design Challenge. This innovation challenge aims to encourage entrants to develop solutions that make finding meaningful employment more accessible for people with disabilities.

COVID Accessibility Bug Bounty Goes Live

Unfortunately, most COVID-19 and vaccine information websites and mobile apps are not accessible. BarrierBreak created #CovidAccessibilityBugBounty campaign to crowdsource the identification of accessibility problems and to push for change. 

So, they launched the #CovidAccessibilityBugBounty campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to test COVID-19 websites and mobile apps around the world to identify accessibility bugs. BarrierBreak's Twitter account reveals the community reported more than 400 bugs on GAAD.

As of this writing, the dashboard shows more than 500 bugs across 116 unique websites and mobile apps identified by almost 100 accessibility contributors in 33 countries. BarrierBreak has made the bug bounty as part of its ongoing initiatives.

DAGERSystem Unveils the Accessible Games Database

DAGERSystem has announced a new accessibility database to help gamers search for video games with specific accessibility features and inclusive design before buying the game. Players will use the filters to select the accessibility features what want and the database will serve up games that meet those requirements.

Double Fine's Psychonauts 2 Reveals Accessibility Features

Game Radar shares a video in which Double Fine Senior Producer Kevin Johnson walks through the accessibility features its newest game will contain. The first time players run the game, they will receive a screen with many features they can modify. Players will be able to adjust brightness, text legibility, subtitles, and subtitle size. 

All in-game signage can be changed from English into the player's preferred language. It will provide a mental health advisory screen to let players know the game has "artistic interpretations of serious mental conditions." Other features include reducing camera shake, colorblind options, and fully remappable controls.

Ember JS Framework Takes the GAAD Pledge

The Ember JavaScript Framework has taken the GAAD pledge to show its commitment to make accessibility a core value of its framework. Ember.js is a Javascript framework for building web applications. Already, Ember has been shipping improvements with the "accessibility by default" developer experience in mind. The company invites everyone to help Ember become a more accessible framework and provides a list of ways the public can get involved.

Facebook's React Native Provides a One-Year Update

Facebook's React Native is the first company to take the GAAD pledge. In the past year, the company conducted an accessibility audit that helped them create a template that they can apply to other development frameworks across Facebook technologies. React Native's blog post shares how they developed the template and how they're using it.

Fix Your Content Day Competition Doubles the Number of Fixes

More than 100 institutions competed in a 24-hour competition as part of Blackboard's second-annual Fix Your Content Day Challenge. The purpose is for campuses to deliver as many fixes as they can to make their content accessible. Participating teams made more than 108,000 adjustments, more than twice as many as last year. 

Google Shares Resources and Tools

Google's official blog features multiple posts filled with resources and tools for education as well as new accessibility features in Google products. People in wheelchairs would like to know whether they will run into barriers or if the place they're going to is accessible. Google Maps has a new feature called "Accessible Places" that lets people know whether a destination is wheelchair accessible as easy as looking up an address. The search results will display a wheelchair icon to indicate it's accessible.

Android updates include a new app called Action Blocks that allows people to create customizable home screen buttons. Live Transcribe is an Android app that provides real-time speech-to-text transcriptions of conversations for the deaf and hard of hearing. The app gains new features. Sound Amplifier, an Android app that clarifies surrounding sound, now works with Bluetooth headphones. 

The Harris Poll Publishes Accessibility Survey Results

The University of Phoenix commissioned The Harris Poll to conduct an online survey to better understand U.S. adults' perceptions of disability and online accessibility. The Harris Poll accessibility survey has found one in three Americans report having a chronic medical condition or disability. Almost half of employed adults have requested at least one workplace accommodation due to disability. 

The survey reinforces the importance of considering digital accessibility with more than half of American adults stating they've increased their engagement in online activities. Almost 90 percent of the survey participants believe companies should offer access and reasonable accommodations wherever they do business including online.

IBM Rolls Out Web Accessibility Tool Update

An update to IBM's open source web Accessibility Checker tool makes it easier to find and fix accessibility issues. The tool is part of the Equal Access Toolkit, which is a set of guidelines to give developers the data they need to embed accessibility into the applications.

Insomniac Games Tweets Major Accessibility Features

An Insomniac Games' Twitter thread lists the major accessibility features fans can expect to see in the new release of Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart for PlayStation 5. Some features include adjusting the blurring effect, toggling camera shake, displaying Waypoints, enabling contrast options, remapping the controller, and more.

iStock Data Shows Representation Matters

The iStock News Release shares data that almost 80 percent of people globally expect the businesses they engage with are committed to inclusivity and diversity in their visual communication. Moreover, 60 percent prefer to buy from businesses that are founded by or represent people like themselves.

Microsoft Issues a Call to Action

One of the few things people hear about in the world of disabilities is as the World Blank terms it the "Disability Divide." It indicates there's a gap in including people with disabilities in society.

"GAAD is a time to push to level the playing field for people with disabilities, including ensuring accessibility initiatives are durable and sustainable," writes Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Microsoft Chief Accessibility Officer in her GAAD blog post. "This starts with leadership."

Microsoft has a five-year commitment to close the Disability Divide. She digs into what the company is doing to build products that are accessible by design including in gaming. She shows how the company has made accessibility seamless and inclusive with examples. And finally, she closes with the need to build a global workforce that better represents people with disabilities through talent development.

Slack Goes Further with Accessibility

In the past, the accessibility team was one of the smallest in Slack. Only this team had the expertise to build accessible software. According to Slack's blog post on GAAD, accessibility has become a priority with teams incorporating it into their entire product lifecycle. To boost awareness and inclusivity, Slack has invested in accessibility training across product, design, and engineering. 

The team has scaled Slack Kit, a design system, to make its components more accessible. In other words, it makes it easier for developers to integrate accessibility features. Now every design mock-up includes accessibility. The company moves all of its resource pages and articles on accessibility to its new slack.com/accessibility site.

Solas 128 from Amincable Animal Adds Accessibility Features

Amincable Animal's Solas 128 receives an update to ensure as many players as possible can join the experience. The update adds visual options to improve the experience for gamers with low-vision and color-blind. The synthwave puzzle for PC and Nintendo Switch also gains input options to make it easier for those with motor and physical accessibility requirements to play.

Samsung Commits to Making the Galaxy Accessible to All

In its blog post, Samsung celebrates GAAD by sharing the collaborations that led to the development of many accessibility features. Samsung provides a video tutorial to show how users can make the most out of their Galaxy smartphone's accessibility features.

United Nations Releases Digital Accessibility Primer 

Founder of FrancesWestCo, Frances West is the main author of the United Nations' International Labour Organization Global Business and Disability Network's newest publication "Leave no one offline: A primer on engaging your company on digital accessibility." The FrancesWestCo press release says the primer contains interviews with global organizations and reveals key gaps in visibility for digital accessibility.

Wix Unveils Accessibility Tool

Wix's has launched a new Accessibility Wizard to scan Wix websites and help their members improve website accessibility. The tool is available to all Wix members.

Xbox Commits to Continuing Gaming Accessibility Efforts

Xbox celebrates GAAD with many announcements that give gamers new ways to connect with the community and make games more accessible. They've created Xbox Accessibility Insiders League (XAIL) to give gamers an easy way to provide accessibility feedback to the engineering and game development teams. Anyone who self-identifies as a person with a disability can join.

They have delivered a refreshed support landing page. It makes it simpler for players to customize their gaming experience. The Xbox Gaming Accessibility Team has published a Gaming and Disability Player Experience Guide describing the common barriers in gaming. 

Final Thoughts

Whew! We couldn't be more pleased to learn what companies can do when they tap into their employees' creativity and innovation to create a more accessible and inclusive world. However, this isn't the time to let up. We still have a lot of work to do. WebAIM's Million reports that more than 97 percent of the million home pages it tested remain inaccessible.

What will your company do now to contribute to a more accessible and inclusive world?