September 11, 2017 | Written by: Tom Babinszki
Categorized: DevOps | Inclusive Design
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There are many outstanding accessibility tutorials online. Yet, I’m finding that designers and developers are reluctant to go through them.
I always wondered why?
As I travel to many different IBM offices around the world training product design and development teams and understanding their needs, I believe I have found what makes them more interested and engaged. The key is to make the content as personal as possible.
Steps to Improve Inclusive Design and Development
Whether the training takes place onsite and face-to-face, or via online education materials, it is always useful to anticipate the needs of the learner.
For example, let’s say there is an informative image needs to be labeled. When we specifically look at the product or offering that the learner works with, and find an image that is not labeled, we can brainstorm on what would be the best description of what we are trying to communicate. The exercise immediately becomes more engaging.
It is slightly harder to achieve the same connection online, but we can at least anticipate the most common scenarios.
Also, I find that for a designer or developer, integrating accessibility into a solution often comes down to, “What’s in it for me?”.
It’s frustrating that this is the general attitude. However, instead of insisting upon “requirements,” it is important to connect it to a user need or a fulfilling experience. Before we even start thinking about accessibility, it is important to understand why.
We can connect with the learner through a variety of ways:
- Through the experience of having a friend or a relative with a disability;
- The learner’s own loss of vision or hearing due to aging; or,
- The desire and ability of doing something that benefits society, in general.
For example, when we talk about good contrast or readable content it gets more interesting when we ask the audience if they can think of a grandparent using glasses while on the computer. Instead of talking about the letter size or contrast ratio, once we can connect with the kind of text your grandma would be able to read, the specs become secondary, and much easier to meet.
Finally, it’s best to discuss the “usefulness” of accessibility. Accessible solutions can reach more people, therefore increase the audience and sales for a product. And, accessible solutions can help minimize the likelihood of legal risk, or unsatisfied users.
When we hear about litigation costs and impact, it is hard to argue against reducing corporate risk by developing solutions that are accessible to all.
Accessibility in an Investment in Customers and Employees
It is easy to look at accessibility as an additional time or cost commitment, and there is truth to it. Accessibility doesn’t come for free, as much as we would like it to be.
But let’s face it, providing an accessible solution is a good investment, and for that matter, a marketing tool. According the World Health Organizations, 15 percent of the worldwide population has some form of disability. This means, our products can reach more people if they are accessible.
Or, we can just leave that audience for our competitors.
My favorite argument is that as our life expectancy increases, the likelihood of acquiring age related disabilities does as well. What we make accessible today will benefit us personally tomorrow. The question then becomes: How can I design something today that can adapt and be useful to me when I’ll be 80 years old?
There is always a connecting point with a learner, let that be a designer, developer, tester, manager, etc. After the connection is established, accessibility turns into a personal challenge instead of just being another requirement and box that needs to get checked.
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