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Global Voices, Global Accessibility, Globa11y!

I’d like to have the real voices of accessibility reverberate around the globe!

Back in March, I heard Mahmoud Salem, better known as @SandMonkey, speak about using social media in the revolution in Egypt. He gave a fascinating presentation, which was followed by a question and answer session. The person who asked questions was Solana Larsen, a managing editor at Global Voices.

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I have a lot of respect for Global Voices and the citizen media movement providing a platform for voices around the world. These are voices that you normally do not hear in mainstream media for so many different reasons. I chatted with @SandMonkey and a group of my friends after the talk. Solana was there, and I said hi, because I follow her on Twitter. We started talking about Global Voices.

Solana asked whether I would be interested in writing for them. I was reluctant because I honestly didn’t know what to write and because I have been saying yes to too much lately! If I wrote about something, it would most likely be accessibility.

Then I had an epiphany.

Why not encourage people with disabilities from around the world to join Global Voices? They could tell their story and raise awareness about disability issues and the efforts to make changes for improvement in their country.

The Real Voices of Accessibility

It’s been said before (in casual tweets and on blogs) that many accessibility advocates are people who do not have major mobility, vision, hearing, or cognition disabilities. It’s implied that although they care deeply, they are not directly affected by inaccessible websites, buildings, gatherings, etc. There are people with disabilities who are active bloggers and presenters at conferences, and there are some who blog quietly in one corner of cyberspace.

Why not find more? Why not find people with disabilities – those who are not directly involved with web development and design and all the web accessibility discussions – and get them to blog about what is happening in their countries? What are their governments doing to be more inclusive of all its citizens? What legislation is being debated or passed? What grassroots initiatives are thriving and what seeds have been planted?

Global Voices has sections dedicated to geographic areas and topics of interest. Accessibility is a topic of interest. More blog posts on this topic would be joyfully welcomed by the editing team. The real voices of accessibility deserve to be heard by a larger audience.

Tell Your Story and Make a Difference

This is a shout out to people with disabilities everywhere. You in the wheelchair. You with the chronic pain. You with the signing hands. You with little or no sight. And you and you and you. You have voices, regardless of the state of your vocal chords. You who know the value of accessibility and the value of inclusion. Your voices are the really important ones.

Global Voices is a vehicle ready to drive your message to every home. There is strength in numbers. This is not a job for one person, but a job for many.

Let’s start discussing it in the comments or on Twitter, but if you are ready now, go talk to Solana and the people at Global Voices. Learn about the specific details for blogging, especially those of you who already have an active blog.

@SandMonkey talked about using social media in a revolution where people wanted to make improvements in their lives. I’ve read Oliver Sacks’ Seeing Voices and the part where he describes the strike at Gaulladet University and the rise of Deaf culture. Recently, many people with disabilities took to the street in London in the Hardest Hit march to protest the cuts in disability spending by the UK government.

Maybe it’s about time to take to the (virtual) streets and explain the importance of inclusion and rights for persons with disabilities. After hearing about the Hardest Hit campaign in London, I speculated what it would be like if there was a Million People with Disabilities March in Washington, D.C. (like other Million Something marches in the past).

The chat with Solana and my great respect for Global Voices ignited an idea in my head. Someone else fanned the flames. I want to credit @nethermind with something she said on Twitter. I believe she was making a direct or even an indirect call for action on spreading the word about accessibility. Anyway, the two ideas made me think that Global Voices would be a great channel for that call to action.


Let’s do this. Accessibility is an issue that is not confined to one country or to one language. This leads me to the odd word in my title. I have a great hashtag for this project.


This is the word “global” plus the special abbreviation for accessibility called “a11y”. The “11” stands for the eleven letters of the word “accessibility” found between the “a” and the “y”. (This technique has been used for the words “localization”, which is “l10n”, and “internationalization”, which is “i18n”, so it’s not a new idea.) Merge Global and a11y and you get globa11y.

As an aside, I believe the word “inclusion” is better than accessibility in many ways. I think some people are put off by the term accessibility, or they simply do not understand how it can relate to them. Inclusion may be far better. However, both terms are not recognized that easily outside the group of people who work with or are interested in the topic of accessibility. Hashtags do tend to defy grammar and syntax, and the word accessibility lent itself more easily to a marriage with the word global.

Whatever we call it, let’s give it a go and start a movement!


  1. Solana
    Solana 19 May 2011

    What a wonderful post, and I share the sentiments strongly! On writing about disability I feel I should clarify how we work at Global Voices. We highlight citizen media and social media initiatives to make them known to a global audience. So it wouldn’t be the place to write a first hand experience of a disability, but it would be the place to highlight stories of people who are using the web to fight back against ignorance or injustice and disability worldwide.

    Here are a few quick examples of previous stories:


  2. Karen
    Karen 19 May 2011

    @Solana – Thanks for finding this before I found you to tell you about it. 🙂 And thanks for the clarification. I didn’t make that clear, and that is a crucial point. I sincerely hope there are new voices sharing their news after this post.

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