When emfluence was first contacted by UXPAKC (User Experience Professionals Association) about doing a presentation on web accessibility back in February, I was overjoyed. Not only had I spent seventeen years working in the accessibility field, but it was also an opportunity to present this topic in a different way.
Fifty-six million people in the United States are diagnosed with a disability with over fifty percent being 65 years or older. Although not all these people will need accessibility, it is still a significant number. More and more of our lives are in a digital space which makes accessibility even more important.
Usually just mentioning accessibility will send people running for the hills. The standards are often complex and even contradictory at times, but there is also the looming threat of litigation. Government agencies and their contractors are bound by freedom of information laws that require them to provide the public with whatever is requested in a format that is useable. In a word, accessibility can be intimidating.
I could have focused entirely on the how of accessibility. For example, how to make sure all images have descriptive text embedded or avoiding tables for layout. But anyone can find that information. It’s available on W3’s WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) page. What I wanted to show was who these people are—what the world looks like to someone with visual impairments. I wanted to make the user a person instead of a statistic.
I found vision simulators and demonstrations of user viewing websites using accessible software. I talked about how much it costs a user to purchase accessible hardware and software and the leaders in the field. One of the more amazing moments was when one of the attendees used accessible software during the presentation. Not only did the attendees have me talking about it, but they had a visually impaired user to help answer questions.
The initial idea was that emfluence would host at our office. Unfortunately, COVID-19 changed things. Instead of having a face-to-face meeting of web designers, we ended up with a Zoom based meeting. Watch the presentation here: