Transcript: Ask the UXperts: Accessibility — The Journey & the Destination, with Derek Featherstone

Transcript: Ask the UXperts: Accessibility — The Journey & the Destination, with Derek Featherstone

Derek Featherstone
Summary:

Yesterday marked a special day on our Ask the UXperts calendar. Matt hosted Derek Featherstone in our Campfire chatroom to pick his brain on that subject that he knows so well – Accessibility.

Here is the transcript, if you’d like to find out what we learned.

Yesterday we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to host the inspirational Derek Featherstone in our Ask the UXperts chatroom. Sadly for me, I was otherwise engaged and had to hand the keys to the room over to Matt, who did an honourable job of stepping in as host and moderator.

The subject of the session was Accessibility, and no-one knows that subject better than Derek!

For those of you that have been hiding under a rock (or are perhaps new to the subject of UX), Derek is an internationally recognised speaker and entrepreneur. He is an authority on accessibility and interaction design, he is the founder of Simply Accessible, a user experience design agency based in Ottawa, Ontario.

It was a valuable session, which turned up some handy resources and plenty of useful advice. I’ve pulled out a list of those resources to save you sifting through the transcript for them.

For general disability statistics: http://www.un.org/disabilities/
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/

The Easy Checks document from the Web Accessibility Initiative has some great instructions for a first review: http://www.w3.org/WAI/EO/Drafts/eval/checks

If you had questions that we didn’t have time to get to in the session, make sure you post them in this follow up forum thread – Derek will be dropping by to answer them for you.

If you didn’t make the session because you didn’t know about it, make sure you join our community to get updates of upcoming sessions. If you’re interested in seeing what we discussed, or you want to revisit your own questions, here is a full transcript of the chat.

Matthew M.
Welcome everybody, it’s great to see so much interest in a topic that sometimes doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
I’m delighted to be hosting this Ask The UXperts session with the talented Derek Featherstone. I’ve had the good fortune of seeing Derek present a number of times at different conferences, and he’s one of the most engaging speakers you’ll ever see on stage.
If you’re not familiar with his work, he’s been involved in web and accessibility for years, including a stint volunteering his time with the Web Standards Project, and has authored a few books and a ton of articles on accessibility and related topics.
These days he runs his consulting company, Simply Accessible, from sunny (!) Ottawa, Canada.
(It snowed there today, he tells me)
Welcome Derek!
Derek Featherstone: Did you want to add anything to that intro? Did I leave out anything important?
Derek F.
Thanks Matt, for the kind words — great to be here! And yes, it did snow here today. I was not amused!
Matthew M.
In that case, today’s topic is “Accessibility: The Journey & The Destination”. Now is your chance to ask Derek anything that you’d like to know about accessibility. It’s a big topic!
I’ll start by asking Derek a leading question: Why bother with accessibility? It’s just too hard and expensive, isn’t it?
Derek F.
Ah, Matty — how could you?!?! that pains me :) Thankfully I know you’re kidding around. I’ll give you a reason many people don’t ever think of… Think of designing for your own future self. I’m at the point now where I’m getting a little older, and the microtype i see in interfaces is starting to become maddening.
Nathan G.
Related to that, are there quants to help pitch/justify designing for accessibility in general?
Michael Z.
Hows it going eh? Derek you hoser thanks for bringing the goods. For the record I’m Canadian too ;)
Derek F.
The reality is that as we age, we’re all becoming less able. In the “general” population, anywhere from 20-30% of people may have some type of disability
But that number climbs as we age…
So for me, its really about designing in an inclusive way, taking into account all kinds of needs.
Matthew M.
Derek Featherstone: Thanks. That’s a great statistic to use—do you have any links for folks who need to cite sources to convince people of those kinds of numbers?
Derek F.
One of the things that I love talking about is that Accessibility is a design tool — when you project accessibility issues onto design problems, your solutions almost always make the design better for everyone, not just people with identified, specific disabilities.
Matthew M.
(for those hard noses who a) think they’re invincible or b) are only swayed by metrics)
Derek F.
Well, everyone needs to first remember that 74% of all statistics are made up…
Matthew M.
Hehe
hmig
Derek Featherstone: – What goals are you trying to achieve when making a site accessible? Is there a checklist of items?
Derek F.
There’s lots of great detail on the United Nations site: http://www.un.org/disabilities/
And you can usually find some statistics in most nations Census data
 
One caveat though — most of that data relies on people self-identifying as having a disability.
 
There are many people that simply may not identify themselves that way for a variety of reasons.
Michael Z.
we test with users of all ages and vision impairment even at a low level ensures badly contrasted text to background colours affect participants all the time. Unfortunately light grey text is still cool on Dribble to aspiring UI designers who haven’t even heard the word accessibility
Derek F.
So all stats need to be taken with that in mind.
Matthew M.
Sure thing.
sara
Hi Derek — great to have an idea of the stats; what’s the most common objection you hear about making a site accessible?
Lisa
so, how do you start incorporating assessibility into design?
Derek F.
Nathan Gao: You mentioned quantifiable things that help you pitch and justify it in general… And some of those stats can be very useful. I like to bring a few more things into it. Statements like “We’re always ecstatic when we say we’ve been able to help just one person and make their life better, but we don’t give nearly the same credence to that one person when they face an access barrier”
Nathan G.
Nice one
Will need to figure out how to massage that into the enterprise sphere
Derek F.
Nathan Gao: I also like to bring things back to other things that we work overly hard to support… like older browsers etc… and suggesting that there are quite possibly more people with disabilities viewing your sites than those using IE8, but you’re still working like fiends to support IE8, etc.
Nathan G.
Really good point
Matthew M.
I agree. So much effort goes into supporting older browsers in large organisations that have one app that works only in that browser, used only be a handful of people!
sara
Great way to look at it.
Gloria A.
So if you have buy in from stakeholders, where do you start the process of integrating Accessibility in the workflow?
Derek F.
Nathan Gao: one thing we bring to the enterprise discussion is often the spending power (discretionary or otherwise) of people with disabilities. In the US, the spending power is immense of people with disabilities. Don’t quote me on this, but one client actually said in a meeting that people with disabilities spend over $3 billion USD per year in their industry.
Shayne T.
quoting you now
Matthew M.
Shayne Tilley :D
Shayne T.
sorry for the late check in
Derek F.
hmig: You asked about goals for accessible design… I take a macro and micro view on that. Big picture goals: inclusion. Designing and building for everyone, on every device.
Nathan G.
Interesting, I’ll go look that up. Much thanks for the insights thus far.
Derek F.
hmig: in the micro level, you can use the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, version 2.0 (WCAG 2.0, for short) –http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/
Brittany W.
Hi Derek! What’s the best way to self-test your website either if you don’t have access to users with disabilities or if you want to double check before testing with those users? Also what’s the best way to reach out to those users?
Derek F.
hmig: those guidelines are based on years of experience and research working with people with disabilities, and take care of many of their needs. They’re a great starting point — though remember there are things that can’t be captured in a checklist. That’s part of why I love Accessibility. It’s UX, so there are things that just aren’t so black and white as a checklist. Use the checklist as a starting point, not an end point.
@sara: the most common objection to making a site accessible tends to be things like “That hinders our creativity” or “We don’t have time, we have to be really fast and agile” or things like “Nobody comes to our site that has disabilities”
sara
Thanks Derek! Echoing Brittany W’s question too.
Derek F.
@sara: We counter all of those with “Actually it encourages creativity” and then show them how; and “Accessibility and agile go great together… here’s some things you can try” and finally “Maybe they don’t come to your site because it isn’t accessible in the first place” :)
E M.
In the best case scenario where your project has time and resources for user testing, what do you think is the best way to ensure your test participants include disabled users?
Whoops. Looks like I’m echoing Brittany.
Sarah P.
Derek Featherstone: Great advice on WCAG 2.0 being a great starting point. I totally agree. If find that in Australia, we are still quite WCAG-centric and there is very little testing with people with disability. My colleague, Meera Pankhania who has recently come here from the UK says that Australia is about 2 – 3 year behind the UK in terms of accessibility maturity.
Derek F.
@sara: reality is we get all kinds of objections, but most of them are rooted in fear of the unknown. They don’t know what it’ll cost. They don’t know how long it’ll take. But those things are true for ANY thing you’re doing for the first time. Doing a new project and using AngularJS? you don’t know how long that’ll take or how much it’ll cost either? Same with your first time with anything new… there’s a learning curve and that’s just part of improving your skillset
Gloria Antonelli: I love your question — (actually, I love them all so far!) The best place to start integrating Accessibility into your workflow is in the middle. Many people say “at the beginning” but I think that puts a lot of pressure on people. So I usually suggest starting where the people already are. Meet designers on their turf. Meet developers in their environment. Get them to see/do just one thing a little differently and build from there.
Matthew M.
Derek Featherstone: Except mine :D
Derek F.
Gloria Antonelli: What I recommend is finding ways to make small changes… to integrate some simple things into what everyone else is already doing. We don’t want accessibility to be this “other thing over there” we want it to be seamless and integrated into everything. A simple thing to do that we absolutely love doing with our clients:
Gloria Antonelli: ask the question: “Is there any content that people with disabilities might need that isn’t represented here?” or “How would a person that __________ [is in a wheelchair, can’t type quickly, etc etc] look at this problem differently?” and use that to explore what content you might need that is specific to people with disabilities.
 
Gloria Antonelli: So, ultimately, you end up with a bunch of small changes that are integrated into content, design, development and QA. Those small things add up to become a much bigger thing. And when everyone starts to get on board, you’ve got a chance to really make bigger changes.
 
Gloria Antonelli: hope that helps! (Keep us posted/updated on how it works for you)
Rupert
Hi, I’m trying to promote the need for accessibility testing on site – I’ve seen various stats, such as 25% of the population have a disability of some sort. Does anyone have a reference for what percentage actual have issues using the web?
paul h.
When do people generally realize they need help with accessibility? Are you mainly putting out fires, after something is released and issues become apparent?
Matthew M.
Rupert: Derek mentioned the United Nations website earlier in the chat: http://www.un.org/disabilities/
Derek F.
Brittany Washington: How do we self test? Great question… Depends on what kind of testing and things you’re looking at. From a dev perspective, the best thing you can possibly do is to unplug your mouse/disable your trackpad, and run through EVERYTHING with a keyboard. That simple act is one of the best tests you can do on your own. From a design perspective, there are all kinds of tools that help with colour contrast that help you spot things early in terms of colour combinations etc. There’s a benefit for a designer to test with the keyboard as well. As a designer, when you move through the interface with a keyboard, you’ll really start to notice the need for *well-designed* focus states. You should always be able to see where the focus is, and we encourage you to actually design it with thought and not just rely on the browser default focus outlines.
Gloria A.
Thanks Derek! I think I will start including a set of “disabled personas” to remind myself and my team members to address these questions.
Matthew M.
We have a couple of accessibility tools included on our big list: http://uxmastery.com/resources/tools/
Rupert
thanks Matthew, will check there
Derek F.
Brittany Washington: If you take a look at this example Google Map: http://examples.simplyaccessible.com/maps/ we’ve set it up so that when you’re tabbing through the interface, the Map itself takes the focus, and its clearly visible. That’s a great thing for designers to grab onto and really own.
Sarah P.
Brittany Washington: The Easy Checks document from the Web Accessibility Initiative has some great instructions for a first review: http://www.w3.org/WAI/EO/Drafts/eval/checks.
Brittany W.
Thanks! Keyboard focus is something I’m a little worried about for my project. I need all the tips/examples I can get.
Derek F.
Brittany Washington: When you are ready to start incorporating people with disabilities into your testing, I recommend reaching out to local universities and community colleges. They should all have some type of center for students with disabilities and are often a great source of learning for you/your teams, and they’re most likely willing to help. When we test with them, we provide an honourarium as well, and that helps them out and compensates them for their time.
Brittany W.
Sarah Pulis: Thanks Sarah! Combing through the WAI site is tricky sometimes. I missed that page entirely.
Derek F.
E M Jennings: With respect to ensuring that your user testing sessions include people with disabilities, you may have to take the bull by the horns there. Many of the recruiting companies we’ve worked with in the past don’t have any expertise with working with people with disabilities at all, and they don’t even know if they have people with disabilities in their panel of possible respondents. Most often, we do the recruiting ourselves — at colleges and universities, or even via local advocacy groups that represent and help train people with disabilities.
sara
Sarah P: Thanks from me too!
Derek F.
E M Jennings: I think that’s the ONLY way to truly ensure you get that representation.
E M.
Aha. That’s a very helpful suggestion, thank you. I do like to be able to provide people with real, relevant data.
Rebecca J.
Q for Derek: What are the trends on accessibility in enterprise, behind the firewall? In my experience it seems like staff are an afterthought but interested in what you have seen.
Derek F.
E M Jennings: Yes! Making it real is one of the best things you can do to get buy in at all levels and to help people see that you’re not just making stuff up :)
Brittany W.
Another question – So I’ve been looking into accessible charts and graphs and SVGs seem like a go. What are your thoughts on that? Do you know anything about D3.js and if it’s accessible or can be made accessible because it’s code?
Derek F.
paul howell: “When do people realize they need help with accessibility?” Great question. My cheeky answer is “Usually way too late in the process to do it right, but never to late to make improvements” :)
Matthew M.
Haha
Derek F.
paul howell: We do have to put out our share of fires, but we find that usually it only happens once or twice with a client and they’ll realize they need to engage earlier.
paul h.
ha, yes. Too true!
Denise P.
It’s interesting you mention ‘buy in’ I usually talk about incorporating Accessibility as an approach to usability for all abilities. Sorry that sounds a bit convoluted but you get my point, right?
Often I get strange responses otherwise. I was once confronted with “If we listen to Denise we’ll end up with a website that only blind people can use”
Derek F.
paul howell: So, I don’t think putting out fires will ever stop completely, but it doesn’t take much for people to realize that almost every accessibility issue that they’ve seen in their own project could’ve absolutely been a non-issue had they done things differently up front. That’s a pretty powerful thing. And we see that with our smaller clients, all the way up to our big enterprise clients.
Matthew M.
Denise Popovic: My experience is that different clients respond to different approaches. What works in one organisation may not work across the board, so it’s good to have an arsenal of persuasive tools :D
Denise P.
Matthew M: Very good idea! It also helps if senior management are on your side.
paul h.
Good point Derek. I guess it’s about educating clients.
Derek F.
Rebecca Jackson: Great question about what’s going on behind the firewall. Most enterprise level clients deal with outward, public facing “stuff” first (stuff is the technical term), and internal stuff is generally left for “later” (by which I mean, “never”)
Matthew M.
Denise Popovic: *Everything* about your job is easier if management is on board :D
Denise P.
Matthew M: ;) very true.
Sarah P.
Matthew Magain: Totally agree. Know your clients and what is going to resonate for them. For some it will be the stick (risk of litigation, bad publicity), for others it will be about better customer experience, or increased market share, or corporate social responsibility.
Derek F.
Rebecca Jackson: Things are changing though — we’re seeing enterprise level clients subjected to legal actions from their own employees because their internal systems are either not accessible to consume OR to produce what is needed in their job.
Denise P.
Sarah P: You’re absolutely right. When I worked with Government, it was at least legislated.
Matthew M.
Sarah Pulis: p For sure. It takes time and experience!
Derek F.
Rebecca Jackson: So, the CMS that produces accessible end product may be all well and good, but has an inaccessible admin interface.
Gloria A.
Paul, it seems to be always about educating client as everything is in motion. We barely have time to stay ahead.
Derek F.
Rebecca Jackson: The HR tool that a manager would need to use to conduct performance reviews of direct reports is inaccessible, and therefore someone with a disability may not be able to work in that role as manager, simply because of that tool. Legal actions are being launched based on internal stuff now. I think it is kind of like the “next frontier” to a certain extent.
paul h.
I have used the argument – it is less expensive to plan from the start, than to fix after release.
Matthew M.
paul howell: So true, for all aspects of the user experience, including accessibility
Derek F.
Also, generally — great points all of you are making in the other chat… I can’t keep up with all of that, so I’m focusing on the first wave of questions themselves :)
Matthew M.
If anyone has been sitting on their question, now is the time to ask! We probably have time for one more!
Derek F.
I’m nodding my head on lots of things, but of course, you can’t see that. And that’s probably for the best at this point :)
Rebecca J.
Derek: Thanks. Confirms my experience that it is a knee-jerk after-thought driven by litigation rather than legislation.
Derek F.
Rebecca Jackson: It usually is very reactive… One of our number 1 goals with every client is to help them transition: from project to program, from reactive to proactive, from something I’m forgetting to something else I’m forgetting. :)
Rebecca Jackson: I do have to say, we actually have some clients that are embracing accessibility not because of litigation, but because its the right thing to do. Though they may be influenced by litigation of others — hard to separate all that out and say precisely why some people do it the right way.
HAWK
Looks like it was an epic chat, everyone. I’ll get the transcript up asap.
Derek F.
Ladies, gentlemen, I have to admit — my hands are a bit numb after that hour of frenetic typing :)
Matthew M.
We’re pretty much out of time, so we’ll wrap it up there. Thanks so much Derek for sharing your expertise, and a big thank you to everyone else for being part of this chat. If you didn’t get a chance to ask your question, you can continue the conversation in our community forums. I’ll start a thread and Derek has agreed to chime in and answer questions in there: http://community.uxmastery.com
HAWK
Aw Derek, you rock.
Matthew M.
:D
Where can people find you if they want to keep up with you online?
Nathan G.
We appreciate you exposing yourself to early onset arthritis, somewhat ironically
Gloria A.
Any suggestions on how to distribute the Accessibility hat among all member of the team – devs, designer, PM and Ux.
Derek F.
The best place to find me is on twitter: @feather and on our site: SimplyAccessible.com
Gloria Antonelli: (ping me in the forums… i have just the thing for you for sharing that workload)
Matthew M.
Derek Featherstone: You guys have been posting some great articles on the blog lately. Check it out, folks http://simplyaccessible.com/articles/
Thanks everyone. Have a great morning/afternoon/evening! See you on the UX Mastery community forums some time soon
Derek F.
Bye all!
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