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Anne: Global Accessibility Awareness Day May 20, 2021 Get Thinking, Talking and Learning

Aerial view. On a white blanket outdoors, Anne, an Asian woman, is on her stomach working on her laptop computer. In a clockwise description items surrounding her are her white cane, sunglasses, Braille beaded T-shirt that reads "purpose in view", Apple Watch, Apple AirPods, Starbucks cup, iPhone, and florals in a straw purse. She is wearing a blue tank top with spaghetti straps. The tank has a delicate feminine ruffle.

I am one of those Canadians living with Vision Loss.

Hi Onyx+Ivy community! Thank you so much for welcoming me into your space! I am here because today, May 20, 2021, is Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

My name is Anne, a wife and mom to three adult children, who was diagnosed in adulthood with cone rod dystrophy.

I had felt that something “wasn’t quite right” with my vision. It took some years and lots of self-advocating and persistence to finally get a referral to get the diagnosis. Once I got the diagnosis I was disheartened but I was also relieved because then I knew what I was dealing with and I could move forward with my life. To help me feel like I had some control of the situation I was proactive in enrolling with CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind).

At CNIB I took part in their Technology Accessibility Awareness, which was part of a 6-week program called VisionQuest, so I could learn what technology was available for the Visually Impaired. I was like a sponge wanting to soak up as much information as possible so that I was aware of everything that was out there for me.

I also attended classes at my local Apple store so I could learn the ins and outs of Apple accessibility features for Vision Loss. (For example, taking a course on how to take better photos on my iPhone so that I could better capture memories and detail.)

The pandemic has magnified the struggles of the Visually Impaired community. One of the many struggles is the difficulty in accessing information on websites not suitable to screen readers. With emergency lockdowns we rely on digital accessibility to order groceries and essentials.

Here is an example of the digital accessibility experience of the Visually Impaired:

Close your eyes and imagine trying to surf the web using only your keyboard and a screen reader or voice over.

You are on a retail website looking to purchase a basic cream-coloured cardigan.

You need to rely on the website to have alt text to describe the image to help you find the “right one”. There’s so much out there. If there is not enough of a description or it is not described properly you may end up with a ruffled one, something with a giant statement collar, embroidered flowers, buttons of a color that you don’t like, cropped too short, woven with glitter threads etc. It might not even be cream. It could be yellow, white etc.

If your website experience is frustrating you leave the website.

Likely you will spend your money with another retailer whose online presence is more accessible.

No audience should be left behind. This is the message behind my journey on my Instagram account @purposeinview.

I wanted to start something to make a difference and focus on seeing and finding beauty in everything while making an emotional connection not only within the Visually Impaired community but also with the sighted community. I wanted the beauty to be accessible for all.

I want my audience to have a positive experience and for it to be inclusive. This is where adding alt text and descriptions to images becomes extremely important. Alt text descriptions include placement of objects, image style, colours, names of people, emotions and surroundings. I recently became aware of the importance of audio description and have made it a challenge to myself to incorporate that into my content to make it even more accessible.

When I do an Instagram post, I make a conscious effort to support small or local businesses by tagging or mentioning them and including alt text and image descriptions to the products I’ve purchased. This allows for these products to be accessible for all as the Visually Impaired community is given the opportunity in these posts to see what the product is like. Shopping local and supporting our small businesses are important to me while also ensuring that the Visually Impaired community is not left behind.

What can we do as a community to design for the Visually Impaired and provide digital accessibility? 5 Design Tips We Can Do Today:

1. Add alt text to your images. Instagram, for example, now generates automatic alt text, that you can edit via the Advanced Settings interface.

2. Write image descriptions in your posts. Describe the image but also be concise. Prioritize on describing what is only relevant.

3. Use camel case in your hashtags. For example, using #PurposeInView instead of #purposeinview. Screen readers cannot identify the individual words in a hashtag without camel case

5. Test your website using only a keyboard. This is not only important for the Visually Impaired community using screen readers but also for those with motor disabilities, users without precise muscle control or even power users who use a keyboard to navigate.

“Accessibility touches each and every person at some point in their lives; this is particularly true of digital accessibility.”

Awareness and education to common accessibility problems is the first step.

When we are educated we create understanding and empathy. We can then write content that is written inclusively. Technology cannot do that for us and having a platform of community space that Onyx+Ivy has provided fosters inclusivity, empowers, and creates a connected community.

Technology has become a tool for part of our daily life.

Let’s not leave anyone behind.

To be visually inspired to thrive, learn and grow follow me on Instagram @purposeinview

In front of a mural of a large painted pink bloom, Anne, an Asian woman, is standing with her white cane. She is wearing a white top with a tie-front detail and a navy pencil skirt with wedge sandals. Sunglasses are on top of her head.
Anne- Purpose in View

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