By Victor Schwartzman
May 28, 2015
Four years ago, Joe Devon (a Los Angeles web developer) and Jennison Asuncion (an “accessibility professional” in Toronto) connected on the internet. The happy productive result was GAADthe Global Accessibility Awareness Day. According to its website (http://www.globalaccessibilityawarenessday.org/), “Global Accessibility Awareness Day is a community-driven effort whose goal is to focus one day to raise the profile of digital (web, software, mobile app/device, touch screen kiosk, etc.) accessibility and people with different disabilities.” The fourth annual GAAD was just held and future GAADs will be on the third Thursday of May.
2015’s GAAD included forty-eight “in person” events around the world, from Austin, Texas to Wellington, New Zealand. Type “Global Access Awareness Day” into Google or You Tube and you’ll find plenty of interesting information for anyone using the internet (which includes you, right now.) Ontario had two events: in Toronto there was a display, while Thunder Bay’s Lakehead University hosted an event.
Two isn’t much but it is good for a new event! However, Minister Brad Duguid, responsible for access in Ontario, boasts his Province is a “world leader” in access. We assumed it was a given he would host a GAAD event. Or, certainly make a speech, using GAAD to draw attention to what access is all about. As a politician, he understands these things! Yet he hosted no event nor made any public comment during GAAD.
To learn why, we interviewed Minster Duguid.
[PROFESSIONAL DISCLOSURE: to be completely fair to Minister Duguid, who does not come out so good in the rest of this column, we never interviewed him. We made up everything he told us. “Questions you know the answers to, you don’t need to ask.”Calvin and Hobbes.]
“My aides told me GAAD was coming up,” Minister Duguid told us during the aforementioned interview. “I wanted to comment, but I’m speaking for the Ontario Government, so it was very important to get it right!” He explained that “GAAD was some kind of global awareness day about digital access. This was confusing. For example, digital. Does that mean fingers? Are they talking about typing?”
Minister Duguid, known for being a promoter good at stirring excitement, said “I wanted to get people interested, but I myself was at a loss here. We already have some advisors, like David Onley, only he hasn’t spoken with me lately. So we tried bringing in another advisor to help explain GAAD and all those words, but it wasn’t as easy as you’d think. We cast a wide “net” on internet help, so to speak, haha.” He smiled, ruefully.
Enter Thomas Anderson, aka Neo. Duguid gave Neo a tour of his access team. “Sorry, but not cool,” Neo told Minister Duguid. “I see no understanding of access or anything else. You have to start somewhere and you are nowhere, Mr. Minister. I’d rather be a battery.” Exit Neo.
Other attempts at hiring a new consultant similarly failed. Bill Gates had retired. Steve Jobs was unavailable due to copyright restrictions. HAL 9000 was available but was rejected because its advice had proven problematic in the past.
As a result, Minister Duguid and his team attempted to figure out themselves what the individual words involved in GAAD meant. The search took a disastrous turn when an aide interpreted “access” as “Axis.” The team’s morale improved considerably when another aide proposed “access” meant “excess.” That led to a weekend long party where many forms of excess were explored, some with challenges but none related to disabilities. A similar situation occurred when “access” was interpreted as an online XXX “Xs.” Finally, the research ended in a trip to the hospital after the team confused “access” with “abscess.”
“You’d think after all this time,” Minister Duguid mused, “my team and I would know these words. I have been responsible for access for almost a year.” He sighed, troubled at his difficulties. “Next year will be better. I’m buying a thesaurus.”
Next: As Of May 13, This Weekly Column Was Two Years Old! Shouldn’t We Have Had Access By Now?
Victor Schwartzman contributes this weekly satirical column to Accessibility News and the AODA Alliance. Buy the first nine chapters of his current satirical fantasy novel, King Of The Planet, for .99 on Kindle at http://www.amazon.ca/King-The-Planet-Victor-Schwartzman-ebook/dp/B00NE0CCRC. The unpolished first nine chapters has a “4 out of 5 star” review! He is currently polishing the novel. His graphic novel The Winnipeg Weakly Herald (where each chapter is one issue of a community newspaper) is serialized on the great Canadian lit site, http://www.redfez.net. He has had poetry and short fiction published, has edited novels. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.