Global Accessibility Awareness Day has rolled around again.  I’m still laboring in the fight for increased access and hope you are too. Access is like Swiss cheese: you’re munching along or surfing along and suddenly there’s a hole.  I guess the holes are necessary for good Swiss, but they sure get in the way of good Internet use.

PBS is running a media campaign for their show “The Great American Read” that will result in people voting and crowning one book as America’s favorite read. Their choices range from Charlotte’s Web to Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ll be voting for Grapes of Wrath, but that’s a different story. On their Facebook page, people are encouraged to post about books they love. Many are posting a picture of the cover of a beloved book, which Voiceover can’t read. So I’m posting a note occasionally asking that they type out the name of the book as well as posting the pic. Otherwise all I get is the comments like “Best book ever”; “Fabulous book” “You’ll never think of chocolate pie the same”… What book? I want to scream!

I explored Formed, a Catholic app full of books and talks about the Catholic faith with my parish’s director of religious education. We turned on Voiceover on her iPhone and started listening to some pages on the Formed app.  Its accessibility has improved a bit since (and maybe because of) my two years of lobbying them. But again titles of talks and books were often tagged such that Voiceover would only read one word like “the”. If one knew the exact title of what one wanted, one could do a search and find it that way.  It’s sort of like physical access to a building for wheelchair users being a ramp to the back door. You do get into the building, but it isn’t easy or convenient. The director of religious ed “talked to someone” at Formed and they said they’d get back to her.  I think she’s much more optimistic about the outcome of that call than I am, but the good news is she did do something.

A friend who heads a nonprofit wrote me to ask who my online donation was in honor of.  I wrote her back: “Your form was almost totally accessible. There was a check box near the end which I could check “yes” or “no” but it didn’t say “yes” or “no” to what. I always wonder about those, but reluctantly checked “yes” because I had to check something to get the form to process.  So now I know! I checked “yes” to “in honor of” Actually I didn’t mean it to honor anyone. Guess I could make it in honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day celebrated May 9 every year, but celebrated every day by some of us!”

If you’re new to thinking about access on the Web or on your phone, try using only keyboard commands (no mouse) and turning on Voiceover for the iPhone experience.  Slow down, take a few deep breaths and give it a try.  You’ll get the hang of it pretty soon and then you’ll know why we celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day every year.