In my last post, I began sharing many thoughts about my visit to IndependenceFirst on Monday, to attend “Multiple Facets of Accessible Design.” It was an excellent presentation facilitated by MilwauCHI.
I rambled so excitedly in my coverage of Shawn Henry’s presentation that I needed to split things up into multiple blog posts to do them justice.
The second presenter was Scott Mayer from American Family Insurance, a usability services specialist who became blind at the age of 24.
He led off with some interesting statistics about disabled people in the United States:
Scott then demonstrated how he uses the Internet via his JAWS screen reader. I’ve got to tell you, that was one of the most revealing experiences I’ve had since focusing on accessibility.
I’ve been tackling the subject in my own incremental way, and while I’ve watched a video here and there demonstrating screen readers, there was something completely different about seeing one in action.
Scott showed examples of good and bad accessibility using his screen reader. On one site, he showed how he was unable to pay a bill on a banking site because the actionable button for signing on was invisible to the screen reader.
Another interesting point – Scott talked about how many sites, particularly in the financial sector, tend to go through redesigns often. Some financial sites do it almost quarterly. While constant evolution and enhancement may seem like an all-around great idea, somebody like Scott has to completely re-learn how to get around that site each time they retool it.
Scott explained how automated accessibility testing is not enough. There is no replacement for usability testing with disabled users.
People tend to treat disabled consumers like Scott differently, thinking them to be less educated or poorer. He shared an experience in which he and his wife took their car in for repairs, and how the attendants didn’t even consider for a moment that a blind user may know something about car repairs. They barely acknowledged him.
Physical stores tend to be useless to somebody like Scott. He frequently utilizes the Internet to buy things and have them shipped to his home.
Just because somebody is blind, or deaf, or has some sort of disability, don’t assume they are less intelligent or some poor, destitute person. It may be easy for some businesses to dismiss what they assume is an insignificant minority of potential visitors to their web site, but there is an awful lot of ignorance steeped in that attitude.
And I haven’t even gotten to my first tour of IndependenceFirst! We’ll save that for next week’s posts!