A new way to think about Accessibility

So this morning I was reading [Phillip Hutchinson’s post on pipwerks.com](http://pipwerks.com/journal/2007/10/26/assistive-computer-technology-and-web-accessibility/) linking to video profiles of people with disabilities — mild to severe — using assistive technology to communicate, work and improve their lives.

When I worked as a contractor for DoD and Homeland Security, accessibility was given the due lip service, and that was about the extent to which content was made accessible for 508. Truth be told, most of the content I’ve worked on commercially has been much the same treatment, where we talk about the need to make things accessible but rarely is any effort put toward doing so.

But when I was at Learning 2007, I snuck into [Tom King’s](http://mobilemind.net/) session on SCORM – 10 Years After and 10 Years Ahead. I got there right as he was winding up the session, and he said something that was remarkably profound and insightful — which was something to the effect that accessibility isn’t a problem of the disabled, but actually a tool that helps us improve our design for our own use. In interface design, I’d say that’s especially true.

If you think about the iPhone (and who doesn’t) — my kid can move pictures around and navigate the iPhone. There’s been plenty of YouTube videos of dogs pawing at the iPhone and their able to navigate it, as well (even if they don’t know what they’re actually doing more than at a Pavlovian level). That’s not an accident, folks — it’s an excellent study in accessible visual design. Now the iPhone is probably the least usable device for a blind person — but let’s think about web design then. People who have poor visual acuity need structured information in a web page, text that is large enough to read in clear areas that is unencumbered by distractors.

Guess what? We all benefit from clean design, too.

Phillip has some decent links to W3C’s accessibility guidelines, too.