Our theme for April is accessibility and inclusive design and we kicked it off in style with an amazing session in our Ask the UXperts Slack channel with Derek Featherstone.
Derek is founder of Simply Accessible and he is both an accessibility expert and a really nice guy. I thoroughly enjoyed the session, in which we discussed practical approaches to designing for more than just screen-readers. We talked about ways of widening the net when it comes to who we design for – because if we’re really honest, most of the time we design for people ‘just like us’.
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.
2. Forms. Difficult designs that don’t get translated well to code.
3. Focus. Making things that can’t be focused naturally is a big issue.
> Are you suggesting that we test our sites against EVERY assistive technology? That can prove to be cost prohibitive for the smaller developer.
No, definitely not against EVERY assistive technology. But, widening the net is important. We often don’t recommend you test with a screenreader anyway and work towards the standards and best practices. As an example, you don’t need a screen reader to tell you about heading structure.
> When we talk about Accessibility, it is primarily developers that are talking about the technical challenges, automatic testing, ARIA, and inclusive code snippets… aside from the basics (eg. color contrast / font size / responsiveness), where do you see designers / UXers role fitting into this?
That’s a BIG question. To me the designers most import role is making sure that accessibility and inclusion is incorporated in the vision of the [thing that you’re creating] from the beginning, and then making sure that lives on through the process.
> As a lover of data-grounded personas I’m wondering how design tensions between different assistive technologies are tackled?
I’d love for you to tell me more about that… I’ll start with this though, on the assumption (perhaps faulty) that you mean designing something that is good for one group, but not another. We tend to ensure two things that help:
1. We include different accessibility needs in personas from the start so that the needs are expressed from the beginning.
2. We do usability testing with people that have different types of disabilities. That helps us provide the data we need to be able to make the best decisions. We let performance decide what our next iteration is, and which direction we ultimately take next.
> If we work in a11y, how can we know about all abilities and assistive tech types, to know that we’ve made the most inclusive experience? User research is great, if you’ve got oodles of users and cash and time, but some clients just want a compliance audit.
Part of the solution, I think, is expectation setting up front — making it clear that the ultimate decision maker about whether or not something is accessible is whether or not people can use it, not if it is “compliant”
> Do you feel like reducing the goals to WCAG 2.0, level AA or AAA accomplishes the concept of “everyone” or do you feel like there is room for improvement there?
It’s a great start – WCAG is built on years of other people’s experiences. They’re a fantastic starting point. But what I would love to happen is a bit more testing with real people. Even lightweight stuff with real people will help… its amazing the insights that you can get from a 1 hour session with someone using assistive technology, all for the cost of somewhere between “cup of coffee” and “a decent meal”
> I work on a web application, and want to do an accessibility review, but am unsure where to start. I’ve ran it through WAVE, but don’t really know what to do next. Do you have any tips for this?
Web apps are potentially tricky… is it a single page app with lots of ajaxy things, or is it more traditional server-refreshy? Either way, one great way to start… run through with someone with a disability trying to complete typical tasks on that app. See how the results stack up to what you found through WAVE. Compare. Contrast. Then prioritize the things you found and start to address them.
> we had a WCAG content audit recently and are working on the fixes. How might teams better go about inclusive design up-front (and throughout) project life-cycle rather than have the bigger job of repair work in hindsight?
It’s all about early and often, right? We need to ensure inclusion from the start. That means a lot of things, but the biggest difference maker to me is getting designers to think differently. Getting them to understand what kinds of challenges people with disabilities might face is key. That is best accomplished by them working with people with disabilities from the beginning of their design process.
> Potentially stupid question: where could I find a list of all these standards, and perhaps compare them?
WCAG 2.0: https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/
Start there :slightly_smiling_face:
> I’m about to start a graduate program for HCI – Human Computer Interaction – I want to focus on disability – Do you feel there is a big market for accessibility experts? If not, how can we show people how important this is?
YES I do feel there is a big market. Of course, that depends on how we both define big, but, yes, we see no sign of things going away, and there is a continuing growth interest. So I’d say yes, definitely a big market.
> How/where do you recruit users for testing? Particularly those with less visible or obvious abilities?
We work with a lot of different organizations… international, national, and local advocacy groups. We’ve built up a panel of several hundred people that we get involved in our usability testing for client work. Many are recruited through twitter, but also our relationships with those advocacy groups. Local colleges and universities are also GREAT sources.
> Do you have any tips/tricks for implementing accessibility into Angular applications? (question from our dev team)
Definitely. We’ve got a big writeup at http://sateach.es/spangular and have some more updates coming soon!
> My question is about the balance between usability and compliance. So as a UX designer my goal is to design the most usable design I can but sometimes compliance means I have to sacrifice usability for our users with disabilities because of WCAG or 508. For example I was forced to add a skip nav but the page was simple enough that the skip nav added more steps than would have been there without it. I work for a government agency so compliance is not a choice. But I felt I could have given our disabled users a better experience than what compliance was forcing me to do.
I’ll generally choose actual results with real people over “compliance” when it comes to conflict like that.
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