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Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2019

May 16, 2019
Mark Carawan, Chief Compliance Officer, Citi
Jennifer Lowney, Head of Corporate Communications

Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is recognized annually on the third Thursday of May. For all of us, it's an opportunity to celebrate how technology is becoming more usable and accessible for people with disabilities. Thanks in part to GAAD, now in its eighth year, awareness of the importance of digital accessibility is increasing, and the people and institutions that develop and influence technology are becoming more responsive to this need. Here in New York City, for example, the City Council and Mayor passed Local Law 26 in 2016 requiring "the adoption of a standard for the accessibility of city websites for persons with disabilities…"

While this early progress is certainly cause for celebration, GAAD also reminds us that we have a ways to go before fully accessible technology is the norm and not a welcome exception. At Citi, one of our earliest initiatives as Co-Leads of the Global Disability Affinity was to deepen our colleagues' understanding of the appropriate etiquette and language to use when speaking to -- and interacting with -- people with disabilities. To present this information, we decided to create a set of online infographics that would be easily-digestible and relatable. We spent a lot of time throughout the development process trying out different layouts, color combinations and phrasing – all in the name of making the infographics as visually appealing as possible. Once we arrived at some great-looking drafts, we shared them with a group of Citi colleagues for their feedback.

Almost immediately, a colleague with a visual impairment alerted us to the fact that we had overlooked a critical element of the design process: ensuring digital accessibility. The infographics were illegible to screen readers, featured poorly-contrasting text and lacked a font readable by people with dyslexia. We had been so focused on the infographics' content and look that, ironically, they turned out to be least useful to the people they were most intended to benefit. With our colleague's input, we were ultimately able to incorporate these necessary changes and capabilities. Nevertheless, we'd learned an important lesson.

As Co-Leads of the Disability Affinity, it's our responsibility to share these lessons and continue to ask for feedback from colleagues as we move forward. Just as unlocking a technology's full potential depends on how widely it's adopted, establishing digital accessibility as the norm at Citi and beyond requires all of us to play a role. One of the Affinity's focus areas for 2019 is accessibility, and we recently created an employee user group to help us test our current assistive technology so we can learn about any current issues and begin to work with our external technology partners to develop applications that are fully accessible. We're confident this will help us continue to build an inclusive culture at Citi that embraces and advocates for people with disabilities and creates an environment accessible to all.

As you join us in celebrating this Global Accessibility Awareness Day, please take a moment to share your thoughts and experiences having to do with digital accessibility in the comments section. If you'd like to learn more about digital accessibility, we've included some additional resources below.

Additional Resources:

  1. Global Accessibility Awareness Day: Experience Digital Accessibility First-hand
  2. NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications: Digital Accessibility Guidelines
  3. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1