Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Making Your UA Accessible to All

The conference's first keynote session is this afternoon, presented by Shawn Henry.

Material at bit.ly/writersUA.

If one thing could do to improve people's lives around the world, your customers, would advance your career, help your business, and if you don't do it, the opposite? Accessibility.

When we think of accessibility, we think of checklist. But it doesn't have to be dull & boring.

Accessibility not primarily about website code, evaluation tool results, conforming to local standards.

W3C defines standards for the web.

Step 1 isn't to look at standards & guidelines. Overwhelming & too much. Important to start with basics of how real people with real disabilities in real situations use your products. Accessibility is about people.

Screen readers only work when a page is structured properly.

A lot of work in accessibility is around people who are blind, but can't get caught up in the idea that blind people are the only people accessibility addresses.

Many types of disabilities: auditory, cognitive, and more. See How People with Disabilities Use the Web, on the W3C site.

Disabilities can be congenital, form disease, from illness, from accidents, from aging.  We're all aging. So accessibility isn't about "them," it's about us.

When you design for accessibility, you make things not only better for aging people, you make things better for a wide variety of people.

When we look at accessibility, we look at a broad range of people. So what's the business case? See Resources for Developing an Accessibility Business Case, by the W3C.

When you design products to be accessible, they are more usable for everyone, not just those with disabilities.

Check out the book "Just Ask," available online free here.

Suite of guidelines. Most well known is WCAG, the web content accessibility guidelines. Designed to be stable, apply to range of web technologies. Referenced in many laws. Also UAAG, or user agent accessibility guidelines, outlining assistive technologies and whet they need to do to support accessibility.  For creating content, there's ATAG, or authoring tool accessibility guidelines. From tools such as Facebook to Flikr to wikis, all used to create content for the web. Tools need to be accessible themselves, and also make the content they create accessible. Tools can support you adding accessibility information.

Accessibility isn't black & white, either bad or good. There's a huge gray area. But don't get lost in the gray area. Don't need to make accessibility perfect (unless you're an accessibility site), but make it decent & move on, maybe improve later. And make sure your'e doing the easy things, the low-hanging frui. Many accessibility things easy to do, so make sure your'e ding them. don't get stuck in the hard stuff and miss out on getting the easy stuff done.

Bottom line, accessibility is an act of enlightened self-interest.

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