Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2019

Around the world, the third Thursday of every May is celebrated as ‘Global Accessibility Awareness Day’. That means that today, Thursday the 16th May, is our annual day of recognition for how accessible design impacts on our lives. We often embody this accessibility approach when planning in autism education - we take responsibility for how we design our classroom spaces, our learning materials and the purpose of our educational experiences so that every student can access the school day to the best of their abilities.

A good example of accessibility that we all probably utilise across most days are the seats in our cars. All cars these days allow you to adjust the front driver and passenger seats so they can meet the needs of your posture, of your body shape and height, but this was not always the case. The reason we have adjustable seats in our cars is due to a design conversation that took place during World War 2. Pilots were finding themselves making errors in their planes and nobody knew why. The Air Force thought perhaps the cockpit seats were the wrong size, so they measured every pilot and built a new cockpit seat to fit what they calculated was the 'average' body shape that should suit every pilot. After the new planes were made,  pilots kept having the same accidents in the sky. The Air Force soon learned that there was no 'average'  body shape for a pilot, so they created something brand new - adjustable seats and adjustable controls in the cockpit. This meant that pilots could adjust seats to their posture, their body shape and height. This stopped the errors they were making while flying, and it was not long until car manufacturers implemented this new design strategy in every new car across the world.

In Positive Partnerships we have a session on 'adjustments' in the classroom that make the learning experience more accessible to every student - this week, in recognition of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, think about the adjustments you make to personalise your comfort, access and success across the day. For me, I adjust the font on my phone to a good size for easy reading and I set the contrast to a level that my eyes can easily focus on; I adjust my headphones to fit my head comfortably; I turn on captions on videos I watch so I can understand words that I might miss when listening; I use a program called 'Descript' that lets me narrate words to the page instead of typing them out to have a break from the screen, as well as many other strategies that allow me to individualise the way I best access my work and leisure time across the day. In my life, these accessibility adjustments provide greater ease; for some, adjustments like these can be life-changing. 
 
If you would like to read more about Global Accessibility Awareness Day, you can visit https://www.globalaccessibilityawarenessday.org and follow the #GAAD hashtag on social media to see the latest examples of accessibility being shared around the world.