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Grassroots Accessibility: Driving change from the middle out


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When we think about accessibility in the context of web technologies, we often associate it with designing products and services for those with disabilities. Yet with digital interactions becoming increasingly common—and often critical to our lives—we should really be thinking of accessibility as a universal design necessity that serves everyone's best interests.

On April 24, 2014, we hosted and moderated a UXPA Meetup, where we discussed accessibility with a specific focus on methods for advancing the practice. We were joined by speakers from SSB BART Group and Kaiser Permanente, who discussed their perspectives and experiences improving accessibility for their companies and their clients.

I also presented on grassroots accessibility, focusing on tools and techniques anyone can use to move the bar within their own company, whether it be a startup or established business. I hope you enjoy my presentation as much as I did creating it.

Published in: Design, Technology

Grassroots Accessibility: Driving change from the middle out

  1. 1. GRASSROOTS ACCESSIBILITY Driving change from the middle out May 1, 2014
  2. 2. Photo by Matt Niemi available under CC HOW CAN WE INCREMENTALLY IMPROVE ACCESSIBILITY?
  3. 3. 3 Grassroots Accessibility Facets of User Experience © Semantic Studios used with permission DEFINING USER EXPERIENCE In 2004, Peter Morville published his seven facets of user experience. They cover seven attributes of design that contribute to a good, positive, satisfying user experience. These facets have been an invaluable asset for helping UX professionals like myself shift the perception of user experience from a field with a narrow scope such as “user interface design” or “usability” to something more nuanced and complex. While the facets help illustrate the complexity of user experience, the honeycomb visualization implies they’re of equal value. Usable Useful Valuable Delightful Findable Credible Accessible
  4. 4. 4 Grassroots Accessibility DELIGHTFUL DESIRABLE USEFUL USABLE ACCESSIBLE A HIERARCHY OF USER EXPERIENCE In fact, user experience follows a hierarchy. Starting from Morville’s facets, I’ve revisited some of the definitions to suit this purpose: ACCESSIBLE At its core, the web must be accessible so users of all abilities can access digital products and services. USABLE Technology must be usable. If digital products aren’t easy to use, they won’t succeed. USEFUL Technology should fulfill an actual user need. DESIRABLE We need to build products that connect with people on an emotional level, so that people actually want to use them. DELIGHTFUL Delight is an emotional state. Many products are desirable, but few achieve a true connection in this way.
  5. 5. 5 Grassroots Accessibility Product Management Customer Experience Development Quality Assurance Systems Architecture Business AnalysisLegal Compliance Marketing Customer Service HOW DO PRODUCTS GET BUILT? Someone out there lies at the intersection between all the elements you need to make a product or service. Whether a product manager, product designer, or CEO, that person sets the vision, moves the project forward, and is accountable for ensuring the entire team works in concert to create something that delivers against a shared goal.
  6. 6. 6 Grassroots Accessibility Product Management Customer Experience Development Quality Assurance Systems Architecture Business AnalysisLegal Compliance Marketing Customer Service HOW ACCESSIBILITY IS TYPICALLY MANAGED Typically, accessibility becomes the domain of a few groups across the product development lifecycle. I’ve often observed a single champion in only one of these groups as the person responsible for advocating for accessible product design and development. That person works tirelessly to raise awareness, find tools to use, and train others—with limited resources and in addition to official job responsibilities. This is neither sustainable nor scalable.
  7. 7. 7 Grassroots Accessibility Product Management Customer Experience Development Quality Assurance Systems Architecture Business AnalysisLegal Compliance Marketing Customer Service HOW ACCESSIBILITY SHOULD BE MANAGED Accessibility must become a core part of how each discipline does business. Since accessibility impacts every group differently, they must find ways to elevate awareness and improve outcomes specific to their discipline. These efforts should also be coordinated across your organization so that everybody is working from the same set of standards and sets similar goals.
  8. 8. 8 Grassroots Accessibility SO, HOW DO WE GET THERE? Photo by Henry M. Diaz available under CC
  9. 9. 9 Grassroots Accessibility FIND YOUR CHAMPIONS Don’t be a hero. Find others who are passionate and can help advance the cause within their practice. Referring back to our discussion on how products get built, we should start with those who can exert the greatest influence across the product design lifecycle. Most often, this means your product managers. Starting in the center and working your way outward, seek allies to help you execute. Photo by Matt Niemi available under CC
  10. 10. 10 Grassroots Accessibility CREATE NEW CHAMPIONS Work within functional groups to increase awareness, set goals and create a culture of accessibility champions. Empower others to make the changes they deem necessary to move the bar within their discipline. The creation of standards, guidelines, and document templates is a great place to start. Photo by 1UpLego available under CC
  11. 11. 11 Grassroots Accessibility BUILD A BUSINESS CASE Remember: the business benefits are clear. By improving your accessibility you: o  Reduce the cost of development and maintenance o  Reduce your exposure to legal risk o  Increase your conversion/sales rates o  Drive consistency and standardization of design patterns o  Improve your SEO o  Demonstrate corporate social responsibility and inclusiveness Beyond all this, it’s just the right thing to do. The W3C provides valuable metrics to help you build your business case. Photo by Matt loves kicks available under CC
  12. 12. 12 Grassroots Accessibility DON’T BE PARALYZED BY SCALE OR SCOPE The path ahead may seem insurmountable, but even small steps make a huge difference. Start with the basics—arm your team with the knowledge and tools they need to improve right now. Identify and prioritize the work that needs to be done. Photo by daverugby83 available under CC
  13. 13. 13 Grassroots Accessibility TAKE STOCK OF WHERE YOU ARE By conducting an accessibility audit of your site or product, you can get a great sense of where you currently stand. Use the WCAG Success Criteria levels (A, AA, AAA) to rate your compliance. The tools use for your audit can be reused by designers, developers, and QA to test in real- time. This spreadsheet provides a great head start as an auditing tool. Photo by a.drian available under CC
  14. 14. 14 Grassroots Accessibility CREATE A PLAN Acknowledge up front what can be reasonably accomplished with your given resources, and work within those constraints. A great place to start is to ensure all new products and features meet or exceed your standards where possible. Severe roadblocks may need their own projects to fix. This is where your business case comes in handy. If significant updates to a page are made, make accessibility upgrades part of those projects. Photo by Todd Ehlers available under CC
  15. 15. 15 Grassroots Accessibility COMMUNICATE TO AND TRAIN OTHERS Make accessibility a consistent and continuous part of the conversation by communicating up, out and down. Ensure that your message is consistent and clear starting with the business case and requirements through QA test plans. Establish forums, training, events, and briefings. Webcasts and “lunch & learn” events can be effective ways to spread the word and find other advocates. Photo by alphadesigner available under CC
  16. 16. 16 Grassroots Accessibility PRINCIPLES YOU CAN USE RIGHT NOW PEOPLE FIRST Designing for differences CLEAR PURPOSE Well designed goals SOLID STRUCTURE Built to standards EASY INTERACTION Everything works HELPFUL WAYFINDING Guides users CLEAN PRESENTATION Supports meaning PLAIN LANGUAGE Creates conversation ACCESSIBLE MEDIA Supports all senses UNIVERSAL USABILITY Creates delight Principles by Whitney Quesenbery & Sarah Horton used with permission Photo by Auntie P under CC
  17. 17. 17 Grassroots Accessibility PERSONAS YOU CAN USE RIGHT NOW TREVOR High school student with autism. Poor reading skills and poor social skills; difficulty with visual comprehension. EMILY Has cerebral palsy and uses a computer for communication. Uses a scooter for mobility and has minimal use of her hands. LEA Uses a split keyboard and dictation software. Copes with fatigue and weakness from fibromyalgia. MARIA Uses computer translations, needs clearly written information. Immigrant family is Spanish/English bilingual. Download the full set here Personas by Whitney Quesenbery & Sarah Horton used with permission
  18. 18. 18 Grassroots Accessibility TOOLS YOU CAN USE RIGHT NOW Many tools are available for your team to use: Chrome’s Accessibility Developer tools Snook Color Contrast Checker WCAG 2.0 Standards WAVE Tool Resources list by WebAIM Complete list of tools from the W3C Photo by noinkstains available under CC
  19. 19. THANK YOU Chief Creative Officer 510.277.3400 x712 MARK OPLAND