I was fortunate to present at the standards.next event on Cognition and Accessibility last Saturday.
It was really good to see so many people there. And for there to be so many questions. It was an excellent and informative afternoon.
Accessibility beyond code
I thought really hard about what to talk about and decided on ‘Accessibility beyond code’.
‘Accessibility’ is often viewed as the sole job of developers to make happen and there are reasons why this has been the case, of course. But we need to move on from just thinking about code and consider a site or application as a whole. It really is everyone’s responsibility to make sure things are accessible to everyone.
I have believed for a long time that design in its broadest sense can render a site accessible or inaccessible to people. I see this first hand, time and time again with many people with learning disabilities.
(This also goes for content, by the way.)
In order to try and address this, I made two videos for the event with Martin, to try and explain what some of these issues are. One was of him using eBay, a website he uses often. And another with Amazon, which he had never visited before.
The videos were really exploratory interviews showing Martin using the sites in real time. I wanted to capture things as they happened and I hope that this was helpful.
Jamie Knight was up next. And he was fantastic. He gave a talk with some gorgeous slides and was then interviewed by the lovely Henny Swan. He gave excellent and frank insight into what it is like for him to be on the autistic spectrum, covering some of the techniques he uses when online. It was lovely to meet him (and Lion) in person and continue discussions afterwards.
David Owens then spoke about his experiences of user testing with people with learning disabilities or cognitive impairments. His talk was really interesting and honest in terms of how he had to redress decisions and assumptions he was making about what he was building.
Ian Pouncey finished off the speaking with a presentation about content. He gave lots of good tips as to how we can make content more accessible. It’s easy to forget some of these things, even though some of them are seemingly obvious and he explained things in a really clear and focused way. I particularly liked his comments around providing audio and video as play on demand.
Some other posts about the day
I don’t think I am wrong in saying that at the end of the day, people were left thinking there were lots of things they could do to improve things they work on.
One thing I would like to add though, is that there are lots of people with learning disabilities who are not as computer literate as many of the people we were talking about. Only consulting, user testing with, and talking about a broad range of people will really help to address this.
Thanks to Henny Swan and Bruce Lawson for organising this event and for asking me to speak. And to Martin for allowing me to film him.