Over the past year or so, Luke Wroblewski has been talking about “mobile first” —that is, designing for mobile before designing a Web application for a desktop browser. It’s an intriguing idea. The motivation that drives designing for mobile first is the explosion in the numbers of mobile devices and mobile users, as well as the competitive issues this has created. But the key benefit for users is simple, focused products, because the constraints of small screens force you to prioritize features and create “an experience focused on the key tasks users want to accomplish.” Focusing an application’s user experience on users’ key tasks is good advice for design on any platform. It’s also good advice for usable accessibility.
Pondering this made me wonder: what if design projects started by thinking about accessibility first? I don’t mean the basics like ALT text for graphics, following coding standards, and creating correctly structured information hierarchies. Building in accessibility at the code level is the only way to remove many of the barriers people with disabilities experience. But if our design thinking started with the idea of making a product that focuses on key tasks and is flexible, would that create a better user experience for everyone? Read More
How do you keep usability, accessibility, and user experience requirements on track while developing standards? It is part of the very nature of standards to focus on details—and in the process, to sometimes lose sight of the real goals. This is especially true when a standards-making process goes on for a long time, a situation is highly political, or most people are focused on technology issues. For over two years, I’ve worked in just such a situation as part of the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) creating federal standards for voting systems in the United States.
The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) mandated the TGDC and its members—who include election officials, members of the US Access Board, and other experts, working with scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The TGDC is an advisory committee, so we don’t actually create regulations or standards, but offer our advice to the Elections Assistance Commission (EAC). Read More
When people talk about both usability and accessibility, it is often to point out how they differ. Accessibility often gets pigeon-holed as simply making sure there are no barriers to access for screen readers or other assistive technology, without regard to usability, while usability usually targets everyone who uses a site or product, without considering people who have disabilities. In fact, the concept of usability often seems to exclude people with disabilities, as though just access is all they are entitled to. What about creating a good user experience for people with disabilities—going beyond making a Web site merely accessible to make it truly usable for them?
In the spirit of the column Ask UXmatters, I spoke to a number of leading advocates for accessibility to find out what they think about usable accessibility. Read More