Our Evolving Understanding of Accessibility

Darby Arden
May 15, 2023
5 min read

Our understanding of digital accessibility has been growing and evolving ever since it was recognized as an important topic in the mid 1990s. The first version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) was created in 1999 to help organizations make their websites more accessible for all users. Since then, accessibility standards have only grown, with further iterations of WCAG being created, as well as more accessibility guidelines for authoring tools, media players, web browsers, and more. In 2011 the idea of a Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) was proposed in a blog post by web developer Joe Devon, who worked with accessibility professional Jennison Ascuncion to hold the first GAAD event. GAAD now takes place yearly with events and activities happening around the world sharing information about the importance of accessibility and how organizations can work to make their products more accessible for all.


GAAD and many other organizations that prioritize accessibility understand that digital accessibility standards are more important than ever. In 2022, an estimated one in six people worldwide lived with a significant disability. Internet usage has only become more ubiquitous over the years since the introduction of the idea of digital accessibility, with 75% of Americans with disabilities reporting that they use the internet on a daily basis. Digital accessibility (or lack thereof) has also been the subject of an increasing number of lawsuits – 3,255 lawsuits were filed in 2022 alone. Some of the most common accessibility issues on web pages are missing or inappropriate alt text, poor contrast, and too many navigation links. This short video provides an overview of the history of digital accessibility and the importance of addressing accessibility issues.

Accessibility standards have changed along with the internet, growing to address its complexities and to fully address the needs of all users. Part of Softrams' mission is to make our digital services accessible to all, which means that accessibility is a critical component of the way we build our products. Our teams work using a modern shift left approach that begins with inclusivity and accessibility in the design process and emphasizes working frequently with users to understand their accessibility needs. This is in contrast to the more traditional model that treats accessibility and inclusive design as an afterthought in the development process. Accessibility is one of our core values when it comes to building civic tech solutions that positively impact the world.


Softrams commitment to accessibility means that we are always learning and developing new and better ways to make our products more accessible. Through GAAD, we are able to share our findings and experiences with the greater community and continue making a positive impact. This year, we will host two webinars on Accessibility Beyond Compliance and Cognitive Load. In our Accessibility Beyond Compliance webinar, you will hear from several of our Accessibility Engineers and our CTO about not simply following compliance best practices but making meaningful improvements to websites in order to improve usability for everyone. In our Cognitive Load workshop, you will hear from our Senior UX Designer about how the mental effort required to complete tasks online can cause issues for users and how those issues can be mitigated.


With these two webinars, we can pass on what have learned about building accessible products and move the tech world forward with inclusive development and design principles. Join us on May 18th for these informative webinars!

Sign up for the Accessibility Beyond Compliance webinar. 

Sign up for the Cognitive Load workshop.

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