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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HCI 2009: an on-the-train-home review

HCI 2009, the 23rd annual British Computer Society conference on Human Computer Interaction, took place this week at Cambridge University’s Churchill College . It started and finished with two provocative and inspiring keynote talks, and in between were some interesting presentations and discussions. I was there to give a paper on the user research work we’ve been doing as part of the Usable Image project, but I was also wearing my accessibility hat, and while there wasn’t a huge amount of coverage of accessibility or inclusive design there were plenty of other presentations that were definitely of relevance.

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Talk about the passion

So, I’m back home after a week in Spain. The main purpose of my trip was to serve as General Chair of the International Cross Disciplinary Conference on Web Accessibility (W4A 2009) held in Madrid on 20-21 April. I thought I’d reflect on how I felt the conference went, and the key messages emerging from presentations and discussions.

But first, some background. W4A was started up by a group of accessibility researchers at the University of Manchester, and was first held in 2004; founders Simon Harper and Yeliz Yesilada still do an enormous amount of work behind the scenes each year.

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in the last three W4As in various roles. What makes W4A different from other accessibility, web standards and human computer interaction/usability conferences?

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