Accessibility as compliance
The established approach to accessibility is not optimal. Accessibility is considered its own entity, assigned to one person or to a consultant to resolve. It is addressed at the end of the product lifecycle, when changes are difficult and costly to implement. People with disabilities are not included in user research activities and their perspective does not inform design decisions. At the same time, obligations around access to digital technologies for people with disabilities are becoming more defined, and organizations are struggling to retrofit existing products for compliance. All the while, web and software development practices are evolving and increasing in complexity to keep pace with technology change. It is no wonder that accessibility is seen as something burdensome that stifles creativity, disrupts project progress, and whose benefits are experienced by only a small number of people.
Inclusion has broad benefits
We know that inclusivity has wide-reaching benefits. Including people with disabilities, in our homes, schools, and communities, benefits everyone. Addressing the needs of people with disabilities through design results in environments, products, and services that work better for everyone. The attention to detail and structural integrity required for digital accessibility leads to more stable and sustainable technologies.
We must change how we approach accessibility and take advantage of the benefits of inclusivity. It’s time we turn the tables on current approaches to accessibility and make accessibility simply designing for people.
People are people
The AccessibleUX.org website provides a forum for building a community of practice around Accessible User Experience. With Accessible UX, we transition from Accessibility and User Experience as separate disciplines to where including people with disabilities is done as a matter of course, as a fundamental aspect of design and development activities. To get there we must inspire and encourage change in the way digital products and services are conceived of, designed, and implemented. We must influence how digital content creators and consumers understand how technology supports the diverse needs of people. Underlying these efforts must be a shared understanding that access to digital products and services is a fundamental human right. From that starting point we can take responsibility for ensuring that our creative use of technology as an innovation—as a means to provide information and services—provides inclusion rather than exclusion for people with disabilities.
Accessible UX is a turning point for all of us involved in Accessibility and User Experience disciplines. It means we need to toss out the circumscribed notion of designing for the “typical” user and consider a broad spectrum of needs and preferences. It means we need to consider more than technical standards conformance and strive for designing accessible and enjoyable experiences for everyone.
Accessible UX means change, and change can be difficult. We take inspiration from a quote from the Barry Lopez book, River Notes (thanks to Patrick Lynch for sharing the quote and the photograph of pirouetting sanderlings):
It will not rain for the rest of the day. Lie down here and sleep. When you awake you will feel the pull of warm winds and wish to be gone. I will be standing somewhere on the beach staring at the breakers or the pirouettes of sanderlings, meditating on the distant murmuring of whales; but I can as easily turn inland, go upriver, and begin again.
We hope you will join us, heading upriver to begin again on this journey toward a web for everyone.