Accessibility & Usability & A Sampling of What I learned This Week

The National Council on Disability just concluded its big summit and I have a lot to share with you re usability, accessibility, and you as designers and engineers. Technology was a CONSTANT topic (predictable) and of course, many of you likely watched as the President signed an executive order which will have a significant impact on web design (I was graced with the privilege of being on that south Lawn for the signing). So – just to thank you again for your interest and for helping me bring your questions/ideas/concerns et al to the community and for your interest in hearing from these users.

A couple of immediate points that are relevant:

– Much focus was made on the fact of whom we include in our definition of disabled users or of those users who require or demand features typically thought of as within the category of “Accessibility”. The assumptions that we in the HCI world hold about 80% of the user population of typical products we all work or have worked on is quickly changing given the number of veterans returning from 2 wars and a rapidly aging population. So when you tell me you think designers should start by making a product “usable” given certain metrics and THEN address accessibility, the disabled community is challenging that border as it exists right now in most digital products.

– I took the opportunity to try and take a little 60 sec. snapshot/film clip/show us thing with folks who were interested so they can show you and talk to you directly about how they carry out a task and demonstrate the problems they typically encounter. I mean I was there; they were there – it was sort of… can we just do SOMEthing right now vs. waiting for a lot more paper to be generated and more panels and meetings and whatnot… As soon as the break from that session came, I went out into the hall and a stream of wheelchairs followed me out there and people regaled me with notes and cards and brought their interpreters, et al. CLEARLY the disabled community really wants to be heard by those who develop and build not just the special stuff but the everyday stuff YOU all work on – you folks at Google, you folks working on iPhone iPad stuff, Droids, et al.

– There was an OVERwhelming consensus by EVERYone that slapping on accessibility AFTER a product is designed and developed sucks. And this came from a couple of tech people there as well as those working in departments that buy loads of digital tools/screen readers, etc. as well as users.

– Lastly, I met with Congressman Henry Waxman today (some of you may know of his for his work on the healthcare bill and much of the energy legislation and buzz in the news right now not to mention calling for BP to testify). I got 2 min. with the man and then about 1/2 hour with his legislative assistant. We talked about usability and he asked me about the healthcare.gov web site that was formally unveiled and touted today by the President. I sat with him and spent time educating him on what HCI people do and who works on these teams and why some products are considered so much more usable than others and the lack of not even one “evangelist” re such stuff re .gov end products. At least not on these major consumer point of entries (healthcare.gov).

So…
more about all of this when I put it all together to share with you all at a BayCHI meeting.

Also, the NCD invites ALL to participate – yes, that includes you – and naturally, they are on Facebook where you can comment, etc.:

http://www.facebook.com/board.php?uid=131414496898167

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