Multiple Facets of Accessible Design – Shawn Henry presentation

IndependenceFirst logoLast night, I was privileged to attend the great “Multiple Facets of Accessible Design” presentation conducted by MilwauCHI and hosted by IndependenceFirst (a place so amazing that I’ll be doing upcoming blog posts about the experience)

After a great introduction to the IndependenceFirst facility by Carol Voss, including a 5 minute video about their new building, we were treated with two very different but equally compelling presentations.

The first was “Unleashing Opportunities through Accessibility” from Shawn Henry. Shawn Henry needs no introduction in the web accessibility ranks, as the Outreach Coordinator of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and an all-around advocate and voice for accessibility awareness. She is also the author of Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design.

Shawn Henry speaking at Multiple Facets of Accessible DesignShawn covered a lot of ground. She explained that accessibility doesn’t just pertain to those with visual disabilities — there are many more to varying degrees. There are also other “limitations”, such as technology, bandwidth, literacy, non-fluency in a certain language, etc.

She raised a point that has really been hitting home with me lately, as I discussed in my last post. There are easy things to do to improve the accessibility of a site. Sure, complexity increases when you deal with rich applications, Flash, and more complicated scripting, but many important obstacles can be cleared on the simple markup level — alt tags, page titles, headings, lists, to name just a few.

Shawn summed up accessibility poignantly by calling it, “an act of enlightened self-interest.” After all, any one of us may at any point become a disabled web user, through accident, illness, or just through the aging process.

We had the pleasure of chatting with Shawn further after the event. She is very down-to-earth and clearly passionate about accessibility. She gave us some very good advice and tactics on pursuading organizations to see both the business needs and obligations of ensuring their web presence is usable by all.

The second speaker was downright amazing. His name is Scott Mayer, a usability services specialist for American Family Insurance, who became blind at the age of 24. In my next post, later this week, I’ll share highlights from his powerful presentation.

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5 thoughts on “Multiple Facets of Accessible Design – Shawn Henry presentation

  1. Tony Fuger

    What caught me by surprise most was the talk of bandwidth as it relates to both the United States and emerging countries. As companies try to compete in the global economy they are going to be forced to deal with bandwidth restrictions and limitations that they may not realize. I think it is also worthwhile to say that while mobile internet continues to grow; the speed and size at which these devices are able to manipulate data are not up to par with standard connection speeds.

    Really fascinating topic Steve, can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the rest of the presentation.

  2. Steve Post author

    Thanks for the post, Tony!

    That point really made me think too. Just as we grumble about people still using Internet Explorer 6, yet we still have to be mindful of it, not everybody shares the cushy Web experiences we do.

    You can’t make a web site 100% perfect for 100% scenarios, but you can’t just outright dismiss sects of your visitor base either.

    I’m excited already to cover Scott Mayer’s presentation later this week — I rambled so much about both of them that it necessitates two posts!

  3. CarolV

    It was so good to meet you Monday night at this thing. It was also great to see a really packed room of web designers who wanted to see how usability and accessibility intersect. I hope that we will be able to have additional opportunities for web designers to get much more in depth information about web accessibility in the future at IndependenceFirst. It was great to be able to show off our organization’s accessible offices and services. Thanks for the post!

  4. Steve Post author

    Thanks for checking it out, Ben!

    And it was great to finally meet you too, Carol. I was really stoked to see how many people attended.

    You have an absolutely amazing facility, worthy of showing off. I’ll be yakking a lot about it in the posts to come!

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