Last 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 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.