UX and Accessibility

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of facilitating a discussion about User Experience and Accessibility with a group at the UXCamp NYC held at General Assembly in NY.

The room was filled with about 15 people who all had interest in accessibility. In the room were UX designers, Front End Designers, Product Managers and a couple of back end developers.

The conversation started with an introduction of my passion for accessibility and acknowledgement that I am in the process of learning each day something. My belief is that accessibility needs to be thought of in advance of development and that it is a designer’s responsibility to incorporate accessibility from the beginning of a project.

In the beginning, I spoke of the importance of looking at the accessibility guidelines set forth by W3C, WCAG 2.0 and getting familiar with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation act.

People were asked to introduce themselves and tell a little about their experience with accessibility in the workplace. A common theme throughout was that there was difficulty-incorporating accessibility early on in the process. They asked me ‘how can we get accessibility incorporated earlier in the process?’

My response to them was that there is no one size fits all strategy for incorporating accessibility early. Every organization works differently and you have to get things in where you can. For example, I started with the benefits of accessibility from an organizational standpoint.

1. Increase SEO

2. Improving the overall experience

3. Avoid legal complications

Besides accessibility being the right thing to do, it is also good for business. In addition to telling the benefits, a few people chimed in on what they did at their place of business. One person works in education and through research found the best fonts for people with Dyslexia. She then worked with the design team to ensure the right fonts were incorporated to make the site more accessible for their users.

Throughout the conversation I suggested some resources that have been recommended to me from experts in the field. First, I told them to look at WebAim and then I recommended they get the book ‘A Web for Everyone Designing Accessible User Experiences by Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbery. The book is great for all those working with design and the web. The group was asked to raise their hands if they had ever used a screen reader and out of the 15 people in the room only 3 of them raised their hands. The recommendation was made for them to use the screen reader on the desktops/laptops and to look at the accessibility functionality of their mobile devices.

In the 45 minutes we had to discuss the topic at hand each person told me that they learned something new that day and I had too. I learned that this is an area where we need to continue to educate ourselves as designers and to make sure we are thinking about all of our users. The conversation was meant to be a start and I did the talk with the intention that those who decided to attend were going to continue educating themselves and educating others in the process.

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