State of Colorado Accessibility Newsletter - May 2023

Mark your calendars for Global Accessibility Awareness Day!

Thursday, May 18 is the 12th Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)! The mission of GAAD is “to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion, and the more than One Billion people with disabilities” worldwide.

Awareness is the first step in better serving people with disabilities. People with disabilities use a variety of accessibility tools and techniques to navigate the world of technology. Let’s start by discussing common accessibility techniques that help people with disabilities the most.

Accessibility removes barriers and unlocks what is possible! Ensuring your IT infrastructure is accessible means allowing people with disabilities to be independent and more productive.

To better understand how people with disabilities navigate technology, try the No Mouse Challenge created by the State of Minnesota Office of Accessibility. If you have questions about accessibility, check out the OIT Guide to Accessible Web Services or reach out to the Technology Accessibility Program (TAP) team at OIT_Accessibility@state.co.us.


Accessibility Planning Updates

Here are a few things you can be working on in your organization to improve IT accessibility:

  • Identify roles within your organization and what kind of accessibility training they will need.
  • Perform a review of your websites and document pages with unique page layouts and functionality. You will need this in order to test your websites for accessibility.
  • State of Colorado Agencies Only: TAP is working on updating the checklist to provide more guidance for completing the checklist and for preparing for the accessibility budget that will be available for Fiscal Years 2023-26. More information will be provided during the Open Office Hours.

Accessibility & You: Practical tips for incorporating accessibility into your workplace

Accessible Emails

Email is an important communication tool used by nearly all of us. Accessible emails ensure that everyone can receive and understand your message, regardless of ability or any assistive technology they may be using. 

  • Here are some tips to draft accessible emails:
  • Use a concise and descriptive subject line. 
  • Use a black or dark gray font.
  • Use a readable font size (e.g., avoid using Gmail’s small font size).
  • Use bold text to emphasize a point. Do not use highlights, italics or underlined text.
  • Use hyperlinked text instead of typing/pasting in the full URL. 
  • If you must use color, use it sparingly and ensure it has an appropriate contrast ratio.
  • Don’t use emojis or graphics to replace words. 
  • When a graphic needs to be included, add alt text to the image. Don’t forget to do this for your email signature as well.

Accessible Google Docs

Google Docs continues to be one of the most, if not the most, widely used apps within Google Workspace at the State of Colorado. Making your Docs accessible is important to ensure that everyone, including those with disabilities, can access and use the content. As the Office of Information Technology works to eliminate tech debt and ensure that the content we create every day is accessible for all, the Technology Accessibility Program (TAP) team would like to promote some easy tips to use when working within this popular app.

By following these tips, you can make your Docs more accessible and ensure that everyone can access and use your content. 

  • Use heading styles to structure your document and create a logical hierarchy of content. This helps screen readers and other assistive technologies understand the document's structure and navigate it more easily.
  • Add descriptive alt text to images, charts and other visual content to help users with visual impairments understand the meaning and context of the content.
  • Use descriptive hyperlink text instead of generic phrases like “click here.” This helps users understand where the link leads without having to read the surrounding text.
  • Ensure color contrast between text and backgrounds so that they are readable for users with low vision or color blindness.
  • Use simple language and formatting to make the content easy to understand for users with cognitive disabilities.

More Accessibility Tips for Commonly Used Applications


Accessibility Resources: History and Importance of Braille

By Chelsea Cook (she/her), OIT TAP Accessibility Consultant

While it can be argued that literacy is the key to any well-functioning society, unfortunately, this has not always been extended to people who are blind. Braille is a lot more than just fancy symbols next to elevator buttons and door signs. It is the key to true literacy for a whole class of people with disabilities. Braille was invented in the 1820s in France by Louis Braille, who was a blind educator and musician, as a way for people who are blind or have low vision to be able to read and write so that they would have access to education and knowledge like everyone else. 

However, 200 years later, braille’s usage and availability has not kept pace with other written media. One reason for this includes widespread inequity when it comes to children being taught braille. Also, there is a misconception that braille is outdated, slow and complicated to learn. A good analogy is learning to read and write cursive as well as print writing. While many educators feel that cursive is unnecessary, cursive continues to be a valuable tool for writing and literacy for sighted people.

Let’s explore what braille is and how it’s used. Braille is a tactile reading system used by people who are blind. It consists of six raised dots arranged in a two-column by three-row matrix; this matrix is called the braille “cell.” Different groups of dots per cell represent different letters, numbers, punctuation, language-specific characters, mathematical, musical and chemical notation, and almost any other text-based symbol. Special contractions are commonly used to shorten words so they take up less space. This is important since braille has a predetermined size and generally one page of printed text will take up three pages in braille.

The first braille book was transcribed in 1837, according to the American Foundation for the Blind. Braille's original code was not widely accepted, and the competition by other systems was fierce. The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) “War of the Dots” timeline outlines this. Over time, however, braille became the dominant writing tool and has been adapted for other languages worldwide.

Although many blind people who know braille recognize its importance, braille has been in a battle with technology ever since the first screen readers came out in the late 1980s. However, braille itself has been transformed by the addition of new technology. The first braille display was commercially available in Germany in 1975 and in the United States in 1982, according to another NFB timeline. In the next two articles of this series, we will discuss the subject of refreshable braille displays, how they work and recent advancements in this technology. 

Braille Resources


Notable & Quotable 

The only disability is when people cannot see human potential.” 

- Debra Ruh, Global Disability Inclusion Strategist and CEO, Ruh Global IMPACT