3Play Media Celebrates Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)
May 20, 2021, marked the 10th annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). Created by Joe Devon and Jennison Asuncion, GAAD is all about raising awareness for digital accessibility and inclusion for people around the world with disabilities.
Needless to say, GAAD is one of our favorite annual events! At 3Play Media, we look for new ways each year to contribute to GAAD and support accessibility. Read on to learn about how we celebrated GAAD this year.
Webinar with actor Mickey Rowe and disability rights advocate Michael Agyin
On May 20, we hosted a free public webinar to celebrate GAAD. We first chatted with actor Mickey Rowe about his journey as an autistic actor and then with advocate Michael Agyin about his work and the lessons he learned growing up in Compton, California.
Learn about Mickey Rowe
Mickey Rowe has had a prolific and varied career as an actor, director, and public speaker. He was the first autistic actor to play Christopher Boone, the lead role in the Tony Award-winning play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. He also appeared as the title role in the Tony Award-winning play Amadeus and more. Mickey has been featured in the New York Times, PBS, Vogue, Playbill, NPR, CNN, and Huffington Post. He has keynoted at organizations such as Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, The Kennedy Center, Disability Rights Washington, and The Gershwin Theatre on Broadway.
Mickey was also the founding Artistic Director of National Disability Theatre, which works with Tony Award-winning companies such as La Jolla Playhouse and the Goodman Theatre. He is the author of Fearlessly Different—in bookstores everywhere March 2022.
During our webinar, Mickey spoke about growing up visually impaired and autistic but not knowing about his autism diagnosis until later in life. “Knowledge about yourself is power,” Mickey said during the webinar. His communication challenges in childhood led him to theater, which opened up his communication thanks to scripting, a tool he uses in his everyday life.
Mickey also spoke about the importance of hiring autistic actors, directors, and writers. Before being cast in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, people told Mickey that an autistic actor could never play Christopher Boone because there no talented autistic actors. Mickey connected his experiences and the lack of diverse hiring in the arts to the broader importance of hiring autistic people in general, citing the statistic that 85% of autistic college graduates are unemployed.
“The point of storytelling is to connect us with people we otherwise wouldn’t come in contact with,” Mickey said. “That’s why inclusion in the arts matters—it leads directly to inclusion in life.”
Learn about Michael Agyin
Michael Agyin is a Deaf and disability rights advocate. He is the son of Ghanian immigrants and grew up in Compton, CA.
Michael became empowered during college by learning American Sign Language (ASL) and saw the need for deaf advocacy. His determination to break down barriers between the Hearing and Deaf worlds earned him the CSUN National Center on Deafness Outstanding Humanitarian Award. After college, Michael continued his advocacy work as a behavior analyst for Deaf youth with autism.
Michael has also served as a Governor appointee to the State Independent Living Council, a volunteer for the California Youth Leadership Forum for Youth with Disabilities, and as President of Hear Zero, an African American Deaf Advocacy group.
During our webinar, Michael spoke about growing up as a Black Deaf man and not knowing his whole identity. When his parents immigrated from Ghana to the U.S., they didn’t know about services for people with disabilities, so it wasn’t until college that he learned ASL and found community.
“Once I learned ASL, I realized that parts of the Deaf community didn’t even accept me because I didn’t grow up in a Deaf world. That really motivated me to become part of a community where I belonged,” Michael said during the webinar. In college, Michael got involved in student government, programs for disabled students, programs for youth leadership, and youth politics.
Michael also spoke about growing up using hearing aids, lip-reading, and going to speech therapy—all of which were forced upon him and didn’t provide full access like ASL eventually did.
“When I turned 18, it was the first time I realized I was Deaf. Learning to accept myself for who I am was the best thing I could ever do for myself. It helped me inspire other people to be themselves, too,” Michael said. “People with disabilities are not taught to love themselves. We need to change that.”
3Play Media presents for Siteimprove’s GAAD celebration
Siteimprove hosted a day-long virtual GAAD celebration on May 20. Their celebration included webinars, thought-leadership sessions, and in-depth roundtable discussions on digital accessibility, and we were excited to take part.
Samantha Sauld, Content Marketing Specialist at 3Play Media, presented for Siteimprove’s celebration on five critical steps for making accessible videos. In her presentation, she covered topics such as the rise of video, tools for accessible video, and the many benefits of accessibility.
3Play Media donates to Disability EmpowHer Network
Every year for GAAD, we choose a different disability-focused organization to support. This year, we’re
proud to donate $1000 to Disability EmpowHer Network, a nonprofit organization that empowers girls and young women with disabilities.
Through multi-stage skill-building and mentoring programs, Disability EmpowHer Network empowers disabled young women to live to their fullest potential and have the confidence to lead. We’re thrilled to support Disability EmpowHer Network and their mission of empowering disabled young women.
Company-wide ASL workshop
At 3Play Media, we strive to keep accessibility and inclusivity at the core of everything we do. Internally, this often means presenting accessibility workshops and learning from individuals from the communities we serve.
In celebration of GAAD, 3Play Media hosted a company-wide virtual ASL workshop on May 20 with HASA. Though our other GAAD events were geared towards the public, each year we plan one portion of the day just for the 3Play team to further our accessibility learning. In past years, we’ve celebrated through internal conversations with Deaf and disability advocates such as Aaron Pagan, who spoke to the 3Play team about Deaf culture. In other years, we’ve worked to give back to the community by building wheelchairs for REquipment, a non-profit organization that provides people in Massachusetts with gently used, refurbished durable medical equipment at no charge.
This year, we were excited to dive into learning more about ASL together as a company. We were joined by HASA’s amazing Deaf instructors Claudia Hopkins, Wes Singleton, and Michele Smith. Their workshop covered common conversational ASL basics and touched upon cultural awareness of Deaf communities.
We started together as a company learning introductory phrases such as simple greetings, questions, responses, and salutations. After getting down the basics, HASA’s instructors split us up into breakout rooms to practice our new skills in a smaller setting. Once we had practiced sufficiently in smaller groups, we rejoined as a company to go over what we had learned and discuss Deaf cultural awareness.
HASA’s workshop was a fun and informative experience for all, and we look forward to continuing to learn more as a company about ASL and Deaf culture.
Learn more about the importance of web and video accessibility! Check out Faces Behind The Screen, a storytelling project that shares the stories of people who benefit from a more accessible web.
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