Our Access-Works usability/accessibility Testing Portal is live at Access-Works Portal! Join us for a 30 minute live demo-webinar Wednesday, September 5th, 3PM CST. It’s free.
Knowbility Executive Director, Sharron Rush, and Loop11 CEO, Toby Biddle, will show how the portal works and talk about why including users with disabilities in site testing is not just a good idea; it saves you time and money.
If you’re a Usability or Accessibility professional, please join us. Reserve a seat today – register for the webinar. With the Access-works testing portal you can ensure that your site is universally designed for a diverse marketplace that includes persons with disabilities.
Knowbility and Loop11 created the Access-Works Portal to make remote usability and accessibility testing easy. The portal lets you choose test participants from a database of users with disabilities using a wide range of assistive technologies like JAWS, WindowEyes, and NVDA screen-readers, ZoomText and MAGIC Screen Magnifiers, Dragon Naturally Speaking Voice Recognition Software, refreshable braille displays, alternative input devices and more.
Good Web Designers and Usability Professionals understand the need for inclusive design and the problems associated with integrating accessibility as an afterthought. Check out these papers on why.
For the fourth installment of our 30-Second Interview, Whitney Quesenbery, who will be doing “2 ½” things at AccessU, talks about discovering the importance of accessibility, getting older, and how learning even the simplest things can completely change a user’s experience.
Who are you?
My name is Whitney, and I believe in accessibility. I primarily work in user experience, but who along the way discovered accessibility because accessibility is simply experience for even more people. That’s how it’s defined in the ISO standards – it used to be a completely separate part of their taxonomy, and now it’s defined as usability for the broadest range of people.
What will you be doing at AccessU?
At AccessU, I am doing 2 ½ things. I am doing two presentations and a panel that are part of the Usability and Design track. One session is about how to do usability testing quickly and inexpensively, using a minimum of resources. It’s about how we can do the least work possible and still have it be really effective.
The other session is on conducting user-centered reviews. A couple of years ago, I ran a full day usability testing track, and people thought it was great – but they kept saying that it’s really hard to get access to people – it’s hard to get access to people with disabilities, hard to get out of their office, and hard to get permission. A user-centered review is a technique where we think about people who are real out in the field, and write a little story for them. For example, I could say, “I’m my friend Mary. I’m in a wheelchair, but I have full mobility in my upper body.” You define who you’re going to be based on your own knowledge, plus other research, and channel them, be those people for the review. It’s an easy technique that doesn’t find everything, but it does find those first 12 stupid things you want to fix before you do a full usability test. Plus, it’s a great way to get your whole team involved. They can each take on a role, and each bring a different perspective.
For the panel I’m leading brings together some of the teachers from the design and usability track. Often, people will go out and do usability testing, then come back with a list of issues. Then what? We’ll talk about how to wrap it back in to the process.
Why do you care about accessibility?
I should tell you the story about how I went from “Yeah, of course we should do accessibility. Big deal.” It was just one of those things you should do. I had an amazing opportunity after the 2000 election to join a federal advisory committee to write national voting guidelines. The law that had been passed said that not only did we need voting systems that didn’t produce chads, but we had to make it available to people with disabilities, including the blind. We are still working to resolve the apparent conflicts between accessibility and security, but I believe it can be done, especially if we think of accessibility as an intrinsic part of the design, not an add-on.
Then I got older. And I got bifocals. Plus, I spend a lot of time watching people as part of my user experience research work. You start seeing how people struggle, and the different ways in which they struggle, and I began to see that if we took designing seriously for people outside the bell curve, it would help the people in the middle of the bell curve as well. If we consider all the different things that make us partially disabled at any time, we’d end up with technology and websites that are better for everyone. There are a lot of features that were originally just for accessibility that everybody uses. My favorite example is curb cuts. But I’m sure you’ve used Google maps right?
Yes, of course.
Did you know that the text directions were not planned – they were forced in as an accessibility feature? The original plan was that it would all be visual. Then they realized that of course people would want to print the directions, and there wasn’t a way to get the resolution good enough. The text directions were suggested as an accessibility feature.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned recently?
I’ve just spent the last two days doing interviews with people in the federal government who do emergency response planning. I constantly have this experience where I learn about things have no knowledge of.
But, more practically, I learned a new gesture on my iPad that has changed the experience for me. If you take four fingers and push the screen up, you get a little bar with all the running applications. You don’t have to go home and jump back to move between applications.
I’ll tell you about the most amazing thing I’ve taught recently – I’ve taught my mother how to use the contacts list in her phone. It wasn’t just me; it took me and a couple of people at Verizon. I think it’s on the same line as my iPad discovery – it’s the same type of basic knowledge.
I once put together a report called “It’s Easy Once You Know How.” We were testing two small business systems with everyone from the small business owner doing her own bookkeeping to an accountant who managed a team of bookkeepers. At some time during the 90 minutes we spent with them, every one said that “It’s easy (do use this software) once you know how.” It’s true of so many things… including accessibility.
What would you tell people who don’t think accessibility should be a priority?
Planning on getting old, one day?
That is what I tell them. That they may not think it’s a priority because they’ve never seen its impact. I guess we can turn that around and say people with disabilities have been invisible because it’s hard for them to be out in public. The more you see the impact, the more you want to do it.
But really, I just say, “Planning on getting old?”
My fellow citizens, now is the time to come to the aid of your country. The feds are are serious about wanting diverse, constructive input about how to improve online services to the public – and they are actively listening. Here’s the scoop: As part of President Obama’s Campaign to Cut Waste, the federal government has launched an initiative to streamline and improve agency websites. From an accessibility standpoint, this is terrific news and a welcome effort!
The .gov Reform Task Force is hip to the wisdom of crowds. Its leaders have invited citizen Catalysts – including Annetta Cheek, Craig Newmark, Steve Krug, Vanessa Fox, Lee Vann, Ed Mullen, Candi Harrison and others – to “spur and deepen the discussion.” In other words, they want all of us to encourage peers from specific communities of online practice to contribute to open, honest dialogue. Discussions will lead to improvements in the usefulness of web sites and web based services of US Federal government agencies. The Task Force really wants to hear from citizens – ALL citizens, including those with disabilities – about what we need and what we want from dot gov domains.
So now is your chance – as Joni Mitchell sang, “Call me at the station, the lines are open.” For two weeks, starting Monday, September 19, at 2 p.m. ET and closing on Friday September 30th, the task force will conduct The National Dialogue on Improving Federal Websites. Catalyst participants listed above will lead a series of discussions on various specific aspects of the redesign challenge. Your voice is needed, and you won’t want to miss any of it!
After working with PDFs for the past year or so, I have come to realize that there really is no easy way to ensure 508 compliance with an automated tool. Sure there is the Adobe built-in Accessibility Checker, and a number of third party solutions which I won’t name here, but in reality manual inspection is the only way. The same is true for website accessibility. The number of tools and automated resources can really cut down the amount of time spent verifying compliance, but the only way to know for sure is with a manual review.
An automated tool can tell you if your PDF is lacking a language specification, or if the tab order is not defined, but it cannot tell you if the content makes sense in the order it is read. An automated tool can verify if you’re missing alt-text, but it can’t tell you if your alt-text is meaningful.
Automated tools do come in handy for identifying errors that you may have missed upon initial inspection, and they can help focus your attention in the right direction, but should never be used as the sole indicator of compliance.
"Good Design IS Accessible Design." — Dr. John Slatin