Explore the Future of the Web

Joining Accessibility and User Experience for Accessible UX

Why is accessibility a separate discipline from user experience? Why are some people working hard to provide access to products and services for people with disabilities, while others are concerned with designing successful and enjoyable experiences for “normal” people? It’s time for the accessibility and user experience communities to take an inclusive approach to accessibility and adopt Accessible UX as a shared practice.

Accessibility is usually an afterthought, or a reactive effort based on a complaint. Here are a couple common scenarios:

  • At the end of a project, just before launch, someone on the product team says, “What about accessibility?” This kicks off some last minute scrambling, where someone on the team downloads the JAWS demo and tabs through pages to make sure everything works.
  • The company receives a complaint letter from an advocacy group. The product team responsible quickly engages a third-party consultant to evaluate the product and identify issues with the site. The developers on the team make tweaks to the code where possible to repair issues.

In some cases accessibility is a deliberate part of product development, but occurs at the end of the development lifecycle, like this:

  • The quality assurance team has a suite of tests that include cases to test for accessibility. They find some issues that are significant enough that the developers cannot resolve them through code. Instead of going back to the drawing board, the product team decides to release the new version of the product and continue to offer the previous version as the “accessible” version, resolving to include accessibility in the next version.
  • QA turns up accessibility issues with an embedded video player used on the website. It’s too late in the process to implement a different player, so the product team opts to add a link next to the video that says, “Having trouble accessing the video? Click here to download the video and watch it using your favorite video software.”

These scenarios likely sound familiar to anyone involved in product development. Each has its own flavor and nuance, but they all have the same outcome: a compromised experience for people with disabilities.

The only way to change this paradigm is to move accessibility from a compliance exercise to one that is integral to user experience best practices. But this means the user experience profession must change, and change can be difficult, particularly when the drivers and value proposition is not clear-cut.

During the first section of the presentation, we will introduce the discipline of Accessible UX and present examples of AUX in practice. Then we will share our vision for a Manifesto for Accessible UX and ask the community for input into its development.

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