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What happened on Global Accessibility Awareness Day at GDS

Photo collage of event speakers 'Global Accessibility Awareness Day #GAAD #Accessibility regulations'

To mark the ninth Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), the Government Digital Service (GDS) did something it had never done before. We set up a full day virtual conference on digital accessibility. On 21 May 2020, we hosted 6 webinars, in partnership with accessibility experts from a range of public sector organisations and government departments and created a resource pack for people to organise their own events.

In this blog post we share the recorded webinars so that anyone can learn more about accessibility. We also reflect on our learnings from running the event.

What happened

There were 2 strands of events happening on the day itself. Firstly, GDS hosted its own GAAD agenda. We had almost 4,000 registrations across the 6 events in the lead up to the day.

Secondly, we created a downloadable resource pack that public sector digital teams could use to deliver internal workshops in their organisations.

There was lots of activity online about GAAD. Here is a snapshot of what people were saying:

SerenaNusing tweeted at 7:24 PM · May 25, 2020 (tweet content below)
"My #sketchnotes from last Thursday’s session on #AccessibilityRegulations as part of #GAAD2020 @GDSTeam Share it - this is for everyone. #accessibility #design"
IamKathrynGrace tweeted at 2:44 PM · May 21, 2020 (tweet content below)
"The most brilliant presentation on what digital accessibility is today and not talking about it but helping us by enabling us to have the experience of 'non accessible' web content ourselves. Genious. #GAAD #AccessibilityRegulations Thanks Olly!"
AyalaGordon tweeted at 12:23 PM · May 21, 2020 (tweet content below)
"@dandoescontent taking centre stage for #GAAD accessibility awareness @unisouthampton. Go Dan! Thanks @GDSTeam for the templates!"

What we learned from the event

Our GAAD activities were planned in just 3 weeks. Our daily standups were the golden thread to our planning. These 10-minute catch ups allowed us to allocate responsibilities and a detailed project plan, to make sure the event ran smoothly.

We found that people were keen for a full day of events. Usually attendees drop off throughout the day, but all our sessions were at full capacity from 9am to 4pm. Our most well attended events were on PDFs and the introduction to the digital accessibility regulations, suggesting there’s appetite for more information on this.

As with all events, especially fully remote events, no matter how many run-throughs you have - the technology can still play up on the day. There were some issues with users accessing sessions via their browser, so this is something we are looking into.

Also, the scale of the event in terms of attendee interest was far greater than we anticipated. In future, we will look at other technical solutions that might be better suited to big audiences. We also saw some comments on our initial blog post about people not being able to sign up to events that were full, so we will make it clearer next time the capacity limit on each event. We will also work harder to promote that the sessions will be recorded so those who can’t join on the day have reassurance that they will be able to access the learning.

The day’s popularity also tells us that there's an appetite for more information on digital accessibility so we will certainly consider running this event, or similar, again.

What’s next

Learning about accessibility is not just for one day of the year. The downloadable resources pack will remain on the GDS Blog, so you can set up events at any time to increase awareness in your organisation.

Our help and guidance on meeting accessibility regulations is another place to find out what public sector organisations need to do to meet the upcoming compliance deadlines of the regulations.

Thank you to everyone who worked on the event and joined in on the day. All your efforts make government easier for everyone to interact with.

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