Click here to read chapter 1 of Accessibility right or duty?
Nowadays accessibility is no longer a duty but a right. A right for those who do not have it, the right to build something for everyone without neglecting anyone. Do we really need a law? It should be natural to think that a design could work in different ways, that user-centric design must involve different type of users, not only the personas that marketing has in mind thinking about conversion. We need to remind that the 15% of those personas will need support tools, particular device configurations, structure information, code writing.
I think of it as Accessibility by Design because we need to start from the concept otherwise, we bump into the whole production chain and test.
It must become everyone’s mission, never forget that there are different browsers and devices, different guidelines related to various disability, methodologies to design apps and friendly sites. Even if your product or service does not revolve around PA. Because it is not a luxury that we can afford. We do not need the mark, but we need to tear down digital barriers.
I would like to split the practical suggestions for each stage of the production life cycle of your software, to be quicker and at ease when one day, I wish, you will come to find the information for your very accessible project
- Your mindset: accessibility must be your concept, an unbreakable dogma, today I am giving it to you so that you can treasure it. I received it from a lovely person with whom I shared more than 10 years of my professional life (15 maybe but don’t say that, she is touchy). This person was able to misrepresent my computer science personality, she created the user experience while in Italy they were still talking about graphic interfaces, she lets me know how does it feel when one of your senses pulls you a bad joke. If you start to think with an open mind, everything you will produce will be in support of inclusiveness. Budget and subsequent actors permitting. I’m joking.
- User-Centered Design: maybe we are fed up with planning methodology, today some others are in fashion, we want to be agile, sprint, who cares about work schedule, we do backlogs… We have talked about it on several points: there are a lot, different cases of disability at various levels; 15% of your user base might have one or more, designers and also you might have no idea of what it means live in it. The UCD is 2000s stuff, but it’s the only one that could allow you to select personas and setting that contain targets with disability (probably your company or your client has already received howls of protest, anyway beware of hypersensitive data on these people and their treatment according to GDPR), so priorities can be given. The AGID in its guidelines suggests a design methodology that involves and tests the design and the prototyping with the user. Therefore, highly recommended planning with a real user’s sample, including disabilities, in order to have a good degree of acceptance and conversion, rather than following other reasons more business or chief oriented.
- BIG Guidelines: l said it before, there are already systems to “make accessible” websites and apps, there are assistive tools, such as the screenreader. It’s also true that if you write bad and make kilometric sentences, if you put random menu items, if you put the input fields in disorganised ways, visiting you it is not really enjoying. A 10 minute long voice message, they block you and Goodbye! Just to remember it, the AGID has an online form where users can report these situations to the ombudsman for the digital, so I would not underestimate it. For a few years Apple and Google have published a section for developers dedicated to accessibility, on different devices and for various disabilities:
a. Apple includes specifications to use the VoiceOver
b. Google Accessibility section of Material Design
Just a nostalgic memory dedicated to apple lovers. In the 2011, when SIRI was announced, few people noticed that during the always touching teaser, in addition to understand that you could dialog with a talking doll, make appointments while you were running and so on, actually all this “hand free” already had the potential to help some categories and make their life easier and tenderly inclusive. I leave it here below.
- The development: we have already talked a lot about development. Especially when at the beginning of the web age some professions were not born yet, everything was depending on developer’s fingers: even observing some precautions we saw in the paragraph about HTML. Nowadays with the support of design, user experience and content generation, the weights are redistributed. Information architectures are described and lightened to create menus with the right priorities on – or without – sub-items, texts should be more concise and imagined like recited by speech synthesizer (TTS – Text To Speech for acronym lovers), the developer must therefore have skills on the use of these vocal tools that if on the one hand “read” what the app represents and prioritizes, on the other hand they recognize the vocal inputs that the user provides (Vocal identification, not to be confused with the biometric one which is different, and lead us towards the world of security).
- Trial or Quality? I really have fun when while talking about software life cycle we talk about Test. Everyone wants the same throne; we just need to understand which house we belong to. Without spoilers and without being Jon Snow, I saw a lot of houses. We all want out project to be perfect, flawless, so that everyone likes it. However, did we listen to a dozen of those potentials all? It is alright to test the code, the links, the layout, the data access, the formulas and the calculations, it’s okay to test everything together without fighting between those who created the UI and just look at the sizes, those who wrote the copy and correct the typo, and those who know the product and are aware that the sum obtained is clearly wrong (rounding, rounding…). I think that the point number 2 that puts the user at the centre of the design, becomes in a flip the point number 5, and the test as well cannot ignore the participation of an audience that goes beyond the working team. Call the dragons! – or not. A beta test can engage family & friends, but then you need to collect reports is a systematic way, give them tasks to complete, make sure that they are impartial, that they respect your deadlines, etc… Otherwise you can rely on a crowd with a community that probably will have many ways to select users based on your target and do the dirty work for you. And leaving you the funny part. In a tester community probably the 15% might have the usability features you were looking about, and that will make your app and/or website accessible to them and free from dangerous day one bugs, letting you sleep more peaceful dreams. Welcome to UNGUESS.
The era of global awareness
There are many different new age thesis that in these years are strongly shifting our awareness towards higher themes, more spiritual, more communicative, less materialistic, less bond to resource exploitation and to the wars against each other (ok, it seems like the plot of the musical Hair and of the Age of Aquarius, but they make me doubt). Actually this change already started before the great lockdowns, but we were only a bit more distracted, everyone busy with his office work, family etc…
Probably it’s not a case if after all these years of programming, design, creation and curiosity for technology, my radar started to catch the intangible needs, those you don’t measure with the breakeven point, but have a ROI that, in addition to an eventual monetization, makes you aware of what you’re doing and that you’re doing it well, for you, for your family, for your children’s future, for everyone that is near to you and so on, like concentric waves, until the reach of the ones who will use your app, your website and that will read your article, which you helped to create, to test, to write and to publish.
We started from accessibility because it’s an important theme for me, for the community and I think that we should reach a point where there will be no more need to talk about it because it will have to became natural and physiological for us, professionals, to include all the people with difficulties among the users more skilled with our products and services. But before that we need to create, together, the awareness and the sense of inclusiveness.
It’s the inclusiveness itself that we will find frequently in the Sustainable Growth Objectives - SDGs that we will discuss in this heading, 17 global objectives that companies and privates in their little actions, in their day-to-day work and mindset, must pursuit not later than 2030 to let the world became a better place where our children can grow and where we can remedy to the last two centuries’ damages.