Last year, I posted Personas in Accessibility, sharing some thoughts (as well as posing questions) about how personas should be used in the context of accessibility.
I’ve been giving this topic some more thought lately.
There are different schools of thought in User Experience about the merits and methods of creating personas.
There is definite value in representing users in such a way. The point is to keep your users in focus for UX people, developers, business decision-makers, and everyone else involved in the creation of products. Personas are a nice way to sum up key points and distinctions in a realistic, empathetic way.
Some personas are a fairly involved set of documents, covering every conceivable user and going into a lot of detail. Specifics include educational background, interests, concerns, typical workday, buying habits, ethnicity, etcetera.
Alternative formats roll up users into a minimal set of archetypes, and limit themselves to high-level summaries – just enough information to get the points and distinctions across.
I’ve worked with both kinds, and lately find myself more on the side of the latter. The main thing is to show distinction in types of users. The more of a novel you write (which pretty much goes for any UX artifact), the more likely people won’t bother reading them.
In the presentation I’m working on right now, I think I’ve found a nice way to incorporate accessibility concerns with personas/archetypes.
I’m anticipating that a sizable percentage of my audience think of their products’ users as just one type of person. That person, out of necessity, simply cannot have certain disabilities because they have to be able to do certain physical activities.
In our research, we’ve learned that there isn’t the one type of user — there are several, and they come from different walks of life, age brackets, etcetera. Not all of them have jobs that require physical labor. Many of them are desk-bound, in roles that certainly can be done with a wide range of disabilities.
I plan to first give an overview of the different kinds of disabilities. After that, I’ll list out a smattering of user types for our products. I’ll then go through them and highlight some disabilities that could be in play.
For example, the person who goes around turning wrenches and performing repairs on stuff probably can’t have motor disabilities or be blind. But an executive who runs reports and wants to stay abreast of how much money his organization is making (or losing) could be wheelchair-bound, blind, deaf…really just about any disability is possible.
We’ll see how the conversation goes!