AccessU, Knowbility’s accessibility training conference, starts next week. We’ll have a range of classes covering content, design, coding, and more. For the first time, Los Angeles-based developer and entrepreneur Joe Devon will join us in Austin. Joe is best known in the accessibility community as the co-founder of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). This year, he’ll make an exciting announcement during breakfast on Thursday, May 16.

What is GAAD, and where did it come from?

The idea for GAAD can be traced to a blog post that Joe wrote in November 2011. Frustrated with the overall lack of awareness about accessibility, he called for a day in which people in tech would test their website’s accessibility. Increasing awareness of accessibility would help towards building a more inclusive digital world.

Knowbility board member Jennison Asuncion, who was then an accessibility consultant in Toronto, read the post and contacted Joe. They decided to collaborate and on May 9, 2012, the first GAAD took place with more than a dozen in-person and virtual events around the world.

By 2018, there were 70 GAAD-related in-person events. In addition, many Apple stores worldwide held accessibility workshops to mark the occasion. On the conference front, Joe says he’s noticed that in recent years, more conferences, especially front-end ones, include one or two sessions on accessibility. In the past, accessibility was not on the minds of most people in tech.

So, I think that’s a win,” Joe said. “I don’t think it’s enough, but at least there’s a presence where there wasn’t one before.

On Thursday, May 16, Joe will announce a new project. Let’s hope it influences the conversation about digital accessibility as much as GAAD has.

Dark Patterns Through the Lens of Accessibility

But before then, on Wednesday, Joe will lead a session at AccessU. Called “Dark Patterns Through the Lens of Accessibility,” he’ll explore how dark patterns diminish the web experience for people with disabilities. In short, dark patterns are user interfaces that are designed to manipulate someone into taking unintended actions online or inside a native app. Defaulting to include insurance for a product, forcing users to register for an unwanted service, users to turn on location tracking—these are some examples of dark patterns.

These dark business models, as Joe calls them, affect everyone online, but he argues that they can be especially harmful to people with disabilities. This is why he’s motivated to discuss them within the world of accessibility.

Joe is urging fellow tech professionals to organize, identify these dark patterns, and fight against these deceptive practices.

“It’s a tall order, but it’s important to accessibility,” he said. “ So this is why I’m not giving up talking about it at an accessibility conference, because solving this problem, while it’s great for everybody, in a way it’s pretty critical for people with disabilities because if you have these dark patterns on there, you’re certainly going to have a very bad web for people who have cognitive disabilities and really for everyone.”

“Dark Patterns Through the Lens of Accessibility” will be taught on Wednesday, May 15 at 1:45 p.m. in room JBWS 366. It promises to be a memorable session on a lesser-discussed topic.

“If you listen to the presentation and see some examples of this, you won’t be able to surf the web without seeing it over and over again —where these things are designed to trick you into using their services,” he said.