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Leave That Mouse Alone!
Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day! It’s a day to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) access/inclusion and people with different disabilities.  2019 marks eight years of GAAD observance, and accessibility is finally starting to get the attention it deserves, but is still largely misunderstood.

In my interactions with other developers, I’ve found that most are interested in building accessible software, but don’t know where to start. Most are not AT (assistive tech) users, so how would they?

And it isn’t just us programmers either; most people, I think, don’t understand what it’s like to use the computer without vision, or without hearing, or whatever.

So if you want a better understanding of accessibility, I offer you a challenge: Unplug your mouse. Try to use the computer without it.

People with vision are so used to clicking that I think some might not be able to do without it. But it can be done! Here’s a hint: there’s a device, usually to the left of the mouse, with over 120 different buttons you can try. It’s far from a perfect simulation of any disability in particular, but it’s a start.

And the thing is, making software accessible is a win for everybody! Sure, closed captions help people who are deaf or hard of hearing to enjoy movies, but they also help parents who want to watch a movie without waking the baby. Keyboard navigation support helps screen reader users and others who can’t use a mouse, but they also help people using their laptops on the go, where there is no mouse (because who wants to use those touch pads?). Simplicity in interface design or wording may help people with certain cognitive or learning disabilities, but who doesn’t want their apps to be “user-friendly”? It’s not just people with disabilities who benefit – it’s everyone!

At Lighthouse Central Florida, students learn keyboard navigation and other cool assistive and accessibility hacks that allow them to remained engaged in their social network and in life. Here’s how we do it: https://youtu.be/xpinaoQHO0A


Written by Mike Fox