Design Inclusively: Future Proof Your Software
Since it will be impossible to have me post on my own talk, I'm going to give a pre-recorded recollection and thoughts about my talk and what I'm hoping to impart with it.
Accessibility deals with the ability to design software so that it can work with technologies to help people with various disabilities use applications that they otherwise would not be able to use.
Inclusive Design allows programmers to create and design websites and applications that are available to the largest population possible without having to rely on external technology necessary for sites to be Accessible.
Inclusive Design and Accessibility go hand in hand and are complementary endeavors but Inclusive Design, done early, can help make the last mile of Accessibility that much easier. That's the key takeaway I want to convince people to consider and advocate for.
Inclusive Design is not magic. In many cases, it’s taking work that has already been done and making some small but significant changes. New web technologies help to make Inclusive Design more effective by utilizing semantic enhancements. More important, making this shift can also help you make better design choices in the future, without having to bolt on or re-architect your existing code, possibly at great cost in time, energy and finances. Sadly, we are still in a model where Accessibility/Inclusive Design is driven by two specific parameters:
- how much money do we stand to gain from doing this (because big deal pending and customer paying is demanding it)
- how much money do we stand to lose from not doing this (because we're actually being sued for being in violation of various disabilities acts)
Fact is, we can't really say what technology will be like in five, ten, or twenty years. We can, however, with great certainty, understand what we are likely to be like in those same time frames. When I talk about future proofing software. I don't mean from a technological factor, I mean in a usage factor. We're not future proofing for machines. We are future proofing for US! At some point, every one of us will leave the happy sphere of what is commonly called "normative". For some, it's never been a reality. For many, the cracks in that sphere start to appear around age 45. Seriously, I didn't care much about Accessibility or think much about it before I turned 45 and received the gift that keeps on giving (i.e. the need for reading glasses). That was my first step into the non-normative world of adaptive needs and being a target audience for Accessibility as an everyday part of life. I can assure you it will not be my last.
There are a variety of things that can be done and truth be told they do not have to be radical changes. Very often people will look at Accessibility and Inclusive Design changes and they will say "hey, wait a minute, we applied all of these changes and I don't see any difference." Right! That's the whole point. Accessibility and Inclusive Design doesn't have to be ugly or inelegant. I'd argue that Accessible and Inclusive software is actually more beautiful because its form is enhanced by its function.
Oh, and for those who have never seen my presentation, without spoiling the surprise, I'll share a phrase out of context that speaks volumes:
"IKEA GETS IT!!!"