Key Insights from 3Play’s Giving Tuesday Celebration with the GAAD Foundation

November 30, 2023 BY JENA WALLACE
Updated: December 20, 2023

Championing Inclusivity with the GAAD Foundation [Free Webinar]

Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 as a global movement to inspire charity and generosity in communities everywhere. The day takes place each year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The goal of Giving Tuesday is to inspire and encourage people to do good for others, whether it’s offering a small act of kindness or helping those in need.

3Play Media celebrates Giving Tuesday every year by donating to organizations focused on creating an accessible world. In 2023, we supported the GAAD (Global Accessibility Awareness Day) Foundation! The GAAD Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to disrupt the culture of technology and digital product development to include accessibility as a core requirement.

In addition to a monetary donation, we hosted GAAD Foundation and Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) founders Jennison Asuncion and Joe Devon on Giving Tuesday for “Championing Inclusivity with the GAAD Foundation“. In this fireside chat, we discussed GAAD’s creation, global reach, and evolution over the years; and explored the future of accessibility as we pave the way for a more inclusive digital world. Read on to discover some of the top insights gleaned from our chat with Jennison and Joe.

About Jennison Asuncion and Joe Devon

About Jennison Asuncion
Jennison Asuncion

Jennison co-founded Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) in 2012 after randomly happening upon a blog post by fellow co-founder Joe Devon in November 2011 in which Joe called for a day focused on accessibility. On the occasion of GAAD’s 10th anniversary in 2021, Jennison co-founded the GAAD Foundation, whose mission is to disrupt the culture of technology and digital product development to include accessibility as a core requirement.

I wrote this blog post proposing to create this Global Accessibility Awareness Day. And as I wrote it, I was positive this was going to really work. This is a great idea. And then I hit send, and I was like, “This is never going to happen, no way.” And to my utter shock, Jennison read the post and he’s like, “Why don’t we have a little chat?”Joe Devon
About Joe Devon
Joe Devon

Joe Devon is a technology entrepreneur and web accessibility advocate. He co-founded Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) and serves as the Chair of the GAAD Foundation, focusing on promoting digital accessibility and inclusive design. Joe also explores AI’s potential to revolutionize digital accessibility, developing AI solutions to enhance online experiences for people with disabilities.

GAAD’s Evolution and Impact on Digital Accessibility

[GAAD] is…really an act of love for both of us at this point. And so we started the foundation. And as Joe said, the mission is to disrupt the culture of technology and digital product development so that accessibility becomes a core requirement. And so GAAD is part of that work.Jennison Asuncion

Jennison and Joe kicked off the discussion by highlighting the profound impact and evolution of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). Joe discussed how the GAAD Foundation was created to grow digital accessibility awareness and move towards actionable accessibility initiatives. And in the years since GAAD’s inception, they’ve been seeing impactful results across the world, such as:

  • The global reach of GAAD and its celebration in numerous languages. “The reality is there’s a reason why there’s a Capital G in Global Accessibility Awareness Day…because we need to reach out around the world in languages that people speak. And technology is being developed in all sorts of different languages,” said Jennison.
  • Accessibility is now well-recognized within the culture of digital product development. Joe noted, “I remember the first big keynote that I ever gave, I mentioned the word accessibility. And there were some people in the audience that heard of the term. And I was already taken aback because I hadn’t run into developers that heard of it.”
  • GAAD has inspired organizations to move beyond awareness to action. “We wanted to make that an everyday thing and go from beyond awareness to action. And that is where we’re starting to see some differences. We’re starting to see lots of companies create products for accessibility. We’re seeing Super Bowl commercials, which certainly was something that I don’t think we could have dreamed of on the day itself,” added Joe.

Learn More About Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)

Nothing Without Us: Including People with Disabilities in Accessibility & Tech

So we need to have people with disabilities or impairments both in accessibility, but also in roles where they are helping build and shape technology today and in the future, and also who are making decisions around who gets the funding around all of this technology.Jennison Asuncion

Jennison and Joe stressed the importance of integrating people with disabilities in a variety of roles across technology organizations. “Why can’t we have someone with hearing loss be a chief product officer? Why can’t we have someone who is color blind be a VP of design?” Jennison asked during the conversation. He additionally touched on the idea of investors incorporating requirements for accessibility and the inclusion of people with disabilities, while Joe noted a few high-profile instances of people with disabilities in CEO positions who are helping to normalize this kind of inclusion.

AI & Accessibility Are “Tightly Wound Together”

…AI and accessibility are very tightly wound together. Joe Devon

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hot topic for many industries, and accessibility is no different. Joe discussed the need for developers to create strong AI models that understand people’s abilities on a deeper level. And the only way for developers and AI to understand these differences? By working with people with disabilities. Joe pointed to the work done in the development of Be My Eyes as a prime example of AI development centered around people with disabilities.

Jennison also touched on AI’s capabilities within accessibility testing automation. He acknowledged that challenges remain and larger issues have yet to benefit from automation, but is optimistic about AI’s future in accessibility: “But in this world, where we’re living where everything is being pushed out faster and faster, one way to at least equal the playing field is to have those automated tools catch more accessibility issues.”

Emerging Legal & Ethical Considerations in Digital Product Accessibility

I mean, if there’s any argument to be made to make things accessible, it’s just the absolute cost associated with having to clear the tech debt that is associated with not making things accessible from the get-go. Jennison Asuncion

Joe touched on the European Accessibility Act, noting that any organization doing business with Europe will be required to make their digital products accessible–a task that will require a lot of remediation. 

Both Joe and Jennison stressed the importance of organizations preparing now in order to avoid last-minute remediation issues, while Jennison underscored the benefits of infusing accessibility into digital products from the very start: “So many organizations end up having to basically address bugs that are within the code that have been in the code for months, if not years. And that costs time and money–engineering time, design time, and all of that. The amount of remediation that’s going to have to happen because of these laws that are coming into place, it’s going to hurt. “

Watch the Webinar: Championing Inclusivity with the GAAD Foundation

GAAD Founders’ Advice for Starting the Accessibility Journey

Everyone’s like, “Well, there’s so much to do.” Yes. There is absolutely so much to do. But you’ve got to pick one project, even. Improve the accessibility of that one project as a start. Jennison Asuncion

Accessibility can be overwhelming for organizations, especially if they don’t know where to start, so Jennison suggests beginning with incremental change. Starting with a single project instills a culture of inclusivity within organizations, making the task of enhancing accessibility more manageable and fostering a sense of collective responsibility.

It’s a journey…No one’s going to become accessible overnight. Jennison Asuncion

Once an organization has started on their accessibility initiatives, the GAAD founders gave an important reminder that accessibility is an ongoing process. They additionally discussed the popular accessibility motto of “progress over perfection,” which highlights the importance of taking steps towards a more accessible digital product even if it’s not 100% perfect. “It’’s not always going to be perfect. And in our world today where code is being pushed out almost every other day on features, things are going to break. That’s just the reality,” says Jennison.

 Make accessibility an OKR for your leaders, your design leaders, your engineering leaders. Jennison Asuncion

In their closing remarks, Jennison and Joe touched on accessibility maturity models and tracking the success of accessibility initiatives in a quantifiable way. Tracking and labeling relevant bugs as being accessibility-related can be a great way to discover how truly accessible your product is while simultaneously placing ownership of accessibility issues.

“I would say to the degree to which they measure the success of any other initiative, they should be doing the same on accessibility,” said Jennison, who added that accessibility as an objective or key result (OKR) can also be helpful for organizations looking to measure the success of their accessibility initiatives and journeys.

We sincerely thank Jennison Asuncion, Joe Devon, and the GAAD Foundation for joining us on Giving Tuesday 2023! 3Play was thrilled to support the GAAD Foundation with a monetary donation and this special webinar discussion in celebration of #GivingTuesday. 

We encourage you to visit the GAAD Foundation’s website to learn more about GAAD, how to get involved, and how you can support their mission to disrupt the culture of technology and digital product development to include accessibility as a core requirement.

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