Bland inclusive design is bland

Recently, Jared Spool of UIE published a short post asking whether designing for everybody leads to bland results. He argued that in order to avoid acceptable, but anodyne and uninspiring design solutions, design teams need to focus on a given group at the expense of others. The analogy he used was a restaurant that focuses on a particular cuisine and concentrates on achieving excellence in that area rather than trying to cover all tastes. Does that mean he’s suggesting there’s a problem with inclusive design?

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eAccess+ – A European network for e-accessibility

The European Commission-funded eAccess+ network is a network of organisations who will focus on supporting and promoting awareness and adoption of e-accessibility in industry and the public sector, and also amongst service providers to excluded groups. We’ve just had our kick-off meeting – so here’s some information about what we’re going to do over the next 3 years.

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The role of accessibility in the usability profession today – and tomorrow

I had the honour of taking part in a panel session discussing How Does Accessibility Fit into Today’s Usability Practice? at the Usability Professionals’ Association Conference (UPA 2010) in Munich last week. The session was organised by Shawn Henry of the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative and provided an opportunity to debate the challenges of promoting and supporting accessible ICT design within a wider usability context. A number of interesting discussion points emerged – here are my reflections on the panel session.

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Accessibility for Architects, Accessibility for Web designers

Often, when working to promote accessibility of the digital environment, we look to the physical environment for comparisons and analogies. A PhD study at the School of Architecture here in Dundee has made me realise just how many parallels there are in the challenge of raising the profile of accessibility both amongst architects and amongst web and software developers.

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We can create

Last week, I gave a talk on web authoring tool accessibility at a Scottish Web Accessibility Briefing event, in Glasgow. It was an excellent chance to catch up with fellow accessibility advocates from Scotland – Mark Palmer, Alan White, Jim Byrne and Colin Hamilton. Co-incidentally, the latest draft of Version 2 of the W3C Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) is currently out for public comment.

So I thought I’d summarise the points I made in my talk (my slides are available on Slideshare). Why do web authoring tools have an increasingly important role to play in supporting web accessibility, and why is it so important that we talk about authoring tool accessibility in the right way?

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Finest worksong

I had the great pleasure recently of giving a talk at the Universitat de Barcelona‘s Department of Library and Information Science (in Catalan). It was organised by Mireia Ribera, and attended by staff and students on the Masters of Digital Content Management course, and I’m very grateful to Mireia for the invitation to talk, and to visit such a beautiful city!

I’d been asked to give a perspective from the UK on developments in web accessibility over the years, and in putting together my talk, I ended up with a 10 year biography of web accessibility. I thought this was a nice, round figure, given that it’s almost 10 years to the day since version 1 of WCAG was published by the W3C on 5th May 1999; and nearly 10 years since I started working in this area as a researcher/consultant in the newly formed Digital Media Access Group.

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Living well is the best revenge

Last week I gave a session to third year HCI students on the relationship between accessibility, usability and aesthetics. Part of this session was to explore how aesthetic appeal can override apparent usability limitations in influencing the success of a product or interface; and we also explored the extent to which accessibility and aesthetic appeal can co-exist.

One of the discussion topics was “do accessibility and usability advocates lead by example?” Do their web sites exist as inspiring examples of good design? We had a good laugh finding examples of where that answer was a resounding ‘no’ – although disability charity web sites are certainly improving in terms of design quality – and I pointed students to the fantastic Design Eye for a Usability Guy makeover of Jakob Nielsen’s Useit.com web site. The serious point was that if people wish to inspire designers to think about accessibility while maintaining creativity and design appeal, we need to show that it can be done. Not all accessibility advocates are talented designers (I wish I was), but we recognise the importance of getting the message over in an appealing way.

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