User research to the rescue!Most of us involved with making digital products and services like to solve problems rather than create them. Technology is a great enabler, and it’s exciting to be involved in a project to make things easier and better for people. Accessibility is particularly compelling in this way, making things easier and better for people with disabilities. But accessibility is not thought of as part of user experience. The question is, how to bring the profession’s natural compulsion to solve problems to bear on resolving issues related accessibility?
Accessibility and UX, unite!Once a product team embraces accessibility, what then? The needs and preferences of people with disabilities are not widely known and understood in the user experience profession. Accessibility is considered largely a technical issue, to be addressed under the surface, in the code. Attention to accessibility typically happens during QA or after a product launches, and the people responsible for the earlier phases of strategy, design, and content do not give much consideration to accessibility—not due to a lack of concern, but rather a lack of awareness of the impact those phases have on accessible user experience. This is another way user research can help. By including people with disabilities in user research activities, designers, developers, strategists, and writers can learn first-hand what people with disabilities need in order to be successful.
User Experience for all usersUser Experience focuses on people. Accessibility focuses on a subset of people: people who have disabilities. Including people with disabilities in user experience activities, such as user research and usability testing, is essential for the user experience profession to be true to its purpose: concerned with people, not just "normal" people, providing a good experience for all users, and not just the “typical” user. It’s the most effective way to broaden the definition of “user” in “User Experience” to encompass the diversity of needs and preferences of people—to make a web for everyone.
Insights that drive innovation
Get our best human insight resources delivered right to your inbox every month. As a bonus, we'll send you our latest industry report: When business is human, insights drive innovation.
Sarah has over 20 years experience in interaction and user experience design. As Director of Accessible User Experience and Design for the Paciello Group, she works with companies and organizations to improve accessibility and accessible user experience in digital products and services. She is co-author of A Web for Everyone with Whitney Quesenbery and Web Style Guide with Patrick Lynch.