Day 93: Designing an Accessible User Experience, Part 1

Now that the party is over (my presentations have been given), I’m back on track to going through WAS certification courses on Deque and reviewing information that’s pertinent to my upcoming exam in April. As of today, I’m officially one month away from taking IAAP’s Web Accessibility Specialist certification exam.

Things I accomplished

What I reviewed today

Websites that don’t follow accessibility guidelines and principles are often inaccessible, but they can still be inaccessible (unusable) if only the guidelines are followed and usability testing is not implemented.

Guidelines are a mix of objective (easily testable) and subjective (harder to test).

What I learned from it

Consideration of cognitive disabilities is most neglected when it comes to content creation and website development. Why? Measuring successful access is hard because it’s subjective.

Universal (Inclusive) Design

In 1997, a set of universal principles [PDF] was developed by architects to encourage inclusion of everyone’s needs in the design of buildings and products. Each principle has its own guidelines. The seven principles are:

  1. Equitable use: useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities;
  2. Flexibility in use: accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities;
  3. Simple and intuitive use: easy to understand, regardless of user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level;
  4. Perceptible information: effectively communicates necessary information to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities;
  5. Tolerance for error: minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions;
  6. Low physical effort: can be used efficiently, comfortably, and with minimum fatigue;
  7. Size and space for approach and use: provides appropriate size and space for approach, reach, manipulation, and use, regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility;

These sound a lot like Web Content Accessibility Guidelines principles and criteria, don’t they?

After reading these, I’m reminded of why it can be so easy to confuse the terms “inclusive” and “accessibility”. Accessibility usually does benefit everyone, but is specifically focused on including a particular group of people (those with disabilities). However, inclusive design is a loftier goal that takes advantage of the fact that designing universally, or with a wider audience in mind, does benefit everyone. I, personally, need to correct myself to use each term appropriately.

An A-ha Moment

Content creators, designers, and developers (all creative people) must be open to feedback about their creation. If not, their product will always fail to be inclusive or accessible. Even people who have been mastering their craft need feedback. Otherwise, the product is just for them and no one else.

I still need to check myself and not take feedback or perceived criticism as a personal attack. Receiving another person’s perspective is actually a building block. My confidence lies in being adaptable and open to revisions for a better end-product, and mastering my craft of design. The joy of creating ultimately relies on the joy of sharing it with others. Very rarely am I a creating art for me, but rather I am hoping to design something that’s usable, beneficial, and enjoyable for other people.

Best statement of the day

“Setting a goal of making things “good enough” for compliance isn’t always good enough for real people. Push the boundaries to create experiences that people with disabilities actually enjoy, not just experiences they merely tolerate.”

The runner up quote from Deque

“Accessibility problems are the result of biased design decisions.”

From A Web for Everyone

“Instead of pretending that hidden away in a vault somewhere is a perfectly “normal” brain, to which all other brains must be compared … we need to admit that there is no standard brain…”