I was recently hanging out with one of my BFFs a couple weekends ago and we were talking about apps and internets and things like that. More specifically we were talking about his hearing implants. He has state-of-the-art Cochlear implants. This led us to a discussion about accessibility.
Accessibility is a large buzzword right now, and rightfully so. (What is the point of all this technology and breakthrough if we can’t help others?) This is also a topic that we have been discussing as we build our first mobile game. The most robust mobile game app would be a combination of sight, sound, and tacticity (Is that a word? It is for the moment). We want to create a game that is filled with nuance and delight. An experience that makes you want to play often and play with your friends.
As our conversation within the company went deeper, we noticed that most of us play our mobile games with the sound off. I think that’s for a couple reasons: 1) We don’t want to bother the people working next to us. ;) 2) The sounds are often grating after long periods of time. 3) We don’t want to hear the game. (This, of course, brings us to some deep questions about how we can overcome these obstacles within our own game. More on that later.)
There are some really great games with awesome soundtracks and subtle sound effects (Two Dots, Alto’s Adventure), but even then we still play those without sound. So, how do we deliver a great experience across the spectrum of sound. Not just the binaries of on and off sound, but what about low volume, high volume. We have to listen to the sound on Android, iOS, and Windows devices. Each have different speakers and will render the sound in very different ways. It’s a large discussion that we have not come to conclusion on and being a game and film startup…we want to have great sound!
Which brings me back to the original conversation with my BFF. Even though his implants allow for him to hear much more than ever before–how do we (being every company who creates a product) reach audiences with accessibility issues while delivering the most consistent UX possible?
4 Ways to Increase Your Accessibility UX
That may seem obvious and even insulting. But it’s true. You may not even have accessibility on your radar at the moment. But it should be. Microsoft just came out with this: Inclusive Design (I love that Microsoft has activities to help inspire inclusive design thinking). Google has this: Accessibility. And Apple has this: Accessibility. Get acquainted with the areas that need greater access! Do some reading, start empathizing! Look at your users, do any of them have accessibility needs?
- Stretch Yourself.
Not just physically, although that’s necessary. But in your design. Look at what you have right now and ask yourself is it accessible? While we are all USER experience designers et al. We are typically going to create initial assumptions for most things based on ourselves and our biases. That’s totally human and totally understandable. That’s why we do user testing to actually define how the product evolves over time. Edge cases are a great way to stretch yourself. Find them, work through them, integrate the solutions.
Design what they want, build what they use.
3. Allow for change.
By definition we are UX-ers and we are constantly pushing and pulling on our products to get better. We should be encompassing that concept within ourselves and allowing change in our own lives. How has your UX IQ evolved over the last month? What about the last 6 months? Or even the last year? Are you stuck in a rut and applying the same stale techniques to your problems? I find that reading articles that are completely unrelated to UX can be a great change of pace. Sometimes I will even breakdown a physical experience and ask myself how I would solve the issue to make it better. Whether it be in line at Chipotle or going to a store. We should be growing and becoming sharper in our skills. Don’t just focus on one aspect!
4. Help Others.
Another idea that shouldn’t be foreign, especially as UX-ers (afterall that’s what we do for our users). But are we as empathetic IRL as we are in the virtual world? Are we as quick to solve problems on the side of the road as we are in the user test? Helping others is the fastest way to empathize. Empathy is literally putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. I don’t think that definition is limited to the virtual world. In fact, I know it’s not.
As we move forward towards the utopian future we all want, what good is it if we all can’t be involved? Let’s work together to solve the issues that we are encountering IRL and virtually. Accessibility goes far beyond products it can be applied to the very essentials of life: water, food, and shelter. We should be driving towards the goal of bringing access to products as well as life’s basics.
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