Accessibility: It Applies to Me Too?!


I had the opportunity to attend and present at the Penn State Web Conference this summer. It was a great conference with some amazing sessions. Karen McGrane did a keynote (amazing) and so did Cindy Li (amazing again). I may or may not have told Karen McGrane that she is brilliant and I love her while she was signing my copy of Content Strategy For Mobile.Β πŸ™‚

We’re All Just Temporarily Abled

Cindy Li focused on accessibility in her presentation, and tools you can use to test your product or site. I learned about 8 million tons of information I didn’t know beforehand, but one thing she said REALLY resonated with me. She said, “We’re all just temporarily abled.”

She mentioned her mother who has an ocular disease that is slowly blinding her over time. Then she mentioned that while she doesn’t have an ocular disease herself, she is beginning to require stronger glasses prescriptions each year.

Why am I talking about her eye health? Because she then pointed out that as designers we need to design for accessibility, not only for folks who are permanently visually impaired or have severe motor issues right now, but also for our future selves!

Design for the Future You

With each passing birthday, our vision is starting to go, eventually our hearing will start to go and so will our mobility. I will have these issues, you may have these issues, they’re just part of the aging process.

We aren’t designing accessible products and websites for an invisible subgroup of people who have permanent visual or motor issues, we need to design these sites and products for our future selves as well.

The next time you’re tempted to brush off accessibility while you’re working on a design, picture yourself in 20 or 30 years trying to use your own website or product. Adopting this mentality has given me an entirely new outlook on designing for accessibility.

Angry, Sobbing and Drunk People Will Try To Use Your Product Or Service

The last day of the conference a second session was given with a focus on accessibility. This time the presenter, Robin Smail, pointed out that every visitor who comes to your site is NOT going to be dedicating 100% of their mental energy to navigating your product or website content.

What if they just fought with a family member or coworker? They are going to be smashing their mouse around on their desk trying to get through your product or site. What if they’ve been crying? Their vision is going to be impaired. What if they’ve been drinking? (I’m sure YOU have never shopped online while slightly intoxicated, but you know… OTHER people do it.) πŸ˜‰

The point of her talk was that we need to focus on accessibility and awesome UX for ALL visitors, whether they have permanent issues, or temporary ones.

Do it!

In closing, just remember that as you’re designing your products and websites, focusing on accessibility and quality UX will improve the experience for ALL of the visitors to your site! Β And, it may even save you from some frustration yourself in the not too distant future! πŸ™‚

This link contains some pretty fabulous accessibility testing tools to get you started! πŸ™‚Β

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