We’ve all seen it happen — the jerk who snags an accessible parking space in front of a business, even though he or she isn’t disabled. Whether it’s laziness or ignorance, it’s just plain obnoxious.
Okay, maybe it’s a bit heavy-handed to liken that to designers who put their own personal preferences and styles above all else. In the first case, the majority of culprits know what they are doing is wrong but just don’t care. In the second case, the intentions aren’t nearly as bad.
But there’s a kernel of similarity. In both cases, the end result is potentially inconveniencing those with disabilities and putting your own desires and preferences first.
Of course designers have unique styles that they imbue into whatever they create. There is nothing wrong with that. The answer isn’t to create sterile, one-size-fits-all designs and layouts devoid of personality or vibrancy.
Just be sure when you’re creating your masterpiece to think about users as well. Like I mentioned last week in Taking Criticism in Web Design, be mindful that certain color contrasts will cause problems for users with color blindness or limited vision. Working within that guideline won’t stymie your creativity. It may technically be a “limitation” to work around, but really, text that is easily readable benefits everybody.
Creating a Flash sequence for images or advertisements can be a fully accessible option – just make sure you take the time to do it right, and follow guidelines such as Flash Techniques for WCAG 2.0 or Adobe’s own Adobe Flash Professional CS5 accessibility.
Similarly, video can really enhance a web experience when appropriate. It may seem like extra work and be a drag, but if you don’t provide captioning or transcripts, somebody with a hearing disability won’t be able to follow what’s been said or somebody with a visual disability won’t have a means of listening to a synopsis of what the video is about.
There is plenty of room within accessibility and web standards to be creative and achieve something with a distinct design brand. You may have to park a row or two back from the destination, but you still can get there and be happy with the end result.