It was my pleasure to host one of my favourite UXperts – accessibility expert Derek Featherstone – in our Slack channel today for what will be our last session of 2018.
Today Derek was talking to us about the differences between inclusive design and accessibility. In short, one is the journey and one the destination. He has been agonising over whether it matters how we get to an accessible product if we do ultimately get there, and today was all about discussing those thoughts.
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.
> Inclusive design is a process.
If we don’t include people with disabilities in the process and/or we don’t enable their participation in the process, we can’t call it inclusive design.
I want to design WITH people with disabilities.
What about for touchscreens on physical devices, watches, glasses?
Do you think govt disability laws will account for this?
It applies in many ways — but from a UX perspective, we need to be thinking about the ways in which people with disabilities use these technologies. The biggest opportunity is for innovation — I talked with a woman earlier this year and I asked her what assistive technologies she used and she answered “Alexa.”
She has significant mobility and pain issues, and sometimes doesn’t get out of bed in a day. She uses her Echo to: open the door for her caregiver, to turn her lights out, and to answer the telephone. It’s empowering for her, so I think there’s huge opportunity there.
At the same time, we need to be really conscious of designing and implementing things that use only one modality of input or output. The original Echo devices only allowed for voice input and audio output. How would that work for someone that has difficulty speaking, or cannot speak at all? How does the original Echo work for someone that is Deaf or hard-of-hearing? The most recent Echo — the Echo Show — also provides for screen based output so that a Deaf person can read the captions as output. So, think about this — how can a person that has difficulty speaking get commands into Alexa? We need more than one modality of input.
Touchscreens can be quite accessible, but they need alternative methods for input as well. Watches? already accessible. Not sure if any glasses are already accessible or not, however… it definitely can be done.
I’d like to think so, but I think that the government is often a little behind and can’t quite keep up with the latest and greatest technology. So my short term answer is “no” but in the long-term “yes”.
We don’t figure out how people with disabilities use technologies just by thinking it through ourselves and putting ourselves in their shoes.
I create human centred design solutions for people with disabilities to increase independence in day to day life. I also have an online learning startup.
There are some disabilities some of my audience likely have, such as vision/hearing/speech impairments, or physical limitations. But the needs of those with intellectual disabilities is extremely varied and from my experience so far, irrelevant to my product.
This may be a big mistaken assumption on my part, and if it is please feel free to say so. I suppose the question really is, how do you know when to include people with intellectual disabilities and how do you go about including them in Inclusive Design?
Great question… two things that i recommend:
1. Get them to do everything with a keyboard.
2. Involve people with disabilities early in the process to actually meet developers and show them how people with different disabilities use their computers. I know when I started in 1999 through 2003 some of the most transformative moments were when I saw how hard it was for people with disabilities to use the thing I had created.
Also a great question! Here’s the approach that I take:
2. Go to 1, repeat.
My best advice on this is something you may NOT want to hear…
1. Yes, you need technical compliance.
2. You need to test and involve people with disabilities.
Long question, but I think I can answer quickly.
How to respectfully find people and to effectively engage? That one is best answered with one thing: humility.
Be humble. Be the student. Explain that you want to learn very valuable lessons from their experience. Work directly with people where English is their second language. I hope that makes sense — I mean, really… do the work, and be humble, and soak it all up.
Ahhhhhh, the question. This is quite possibly going to sound like a far too philosophical and squishy answer, but I’m gonna do it anyway.
I’m not sure we need to actually “solve” all the aspects of accessibility. We want to make things better for sure, and many of us have for years. But I’m not sure this is a mystery where we have to have answers for absolutely everything. I’m not saying it’s unsolvable, I think I’m saying that if we’re doing it right, I’m not sure it all needs to be solved. And that mindset to me is the part that might be missing… that we all think that this is a thing that must be solved! it must be solved with engineering! It must be solved with design! It must be solved… and I’m not sure that’s the case.
How do we reduce dependence? I think you need a simple model – recognize that you can’t do it on your own *yet* but that you can over time. Engage with experts and at the start of the engagement where the experts are shouldering say 90% of the load and your teams are shouldering 10%. Over time, you learn at their side, and it moves to where you end up being comfortable — some teams end up doing 50% of the work themselves and 50% is on outside experts. For other teams it is 70% in house and 30% external. Numbers vary – but you’ll find the right balance for your team.
yes, ask within, but I’d also recommend OUTSIDE the org is just as valuable if not more
yes, they’re the most underrepresented groups, but lets talk more about it since we’re out of time
Derek Featherstone is an internationally-known speaker and authority on accessibility and web development. He is part of the team at Simply Accessible Inc., a leading firm that delivers insightful and creative accessibility consulting to Fortune 500 corporations, educational institutions, public utilities, government agencies and other private sector clients.