Improving a Digital Experience
Which of the four principles (perceivable, operable, understandable, robust) should the designer focus most effort on?
This kind of depends on the context the designer finds themselves in. Do they also build the digital product or do they work with a developer? If the latter, how do the divide and tasks? In my case at the moment, courses are built in the learning management system by someone else, so I would so that my focus is on 1) understandable and 2) perceivable. For ensuring things are perceivable this means I have to keep in mind how content will be built into the course, and ensure I provide the necessary elements to the developer (e.g. transcripts, alt text descriptions, etc.)
Are any principles outside of a designer’s responsibility?
All of the principles have some elements which I would say are the designer’s responsibility. Based on the article, one might assume at first that robust falls outside of the designer’s role as it mostly appears to deal with browser compatibility. However, the last item the author lists is something the designer should very much have input on, “Ensure important status messages or modal dialogs are marked up in a way that informs user of their presence and purpose, and lets them interact with them using assistive technology.” The technical markup may be up to the developer, but the messages themselves, in all modes of communication to the user, are important for the designer to research, test, and deploy.
Should manual accessibility testing always be completed?
In an ideal world, with the push of a single button some kind of AI would make websites as accessible as possible. However, knowing that 100% accessibility is not achievable (although we should strive for as close to that as possible) even this AI would not make the site as accessible as possible. A combination of testing should be employed, and designers should be mindful of which type of testing they complete to increase accesibility in which ways. An automated system, for example, is much faster at finding missing alt text on a page than I could manually. However, it might not catch that I have communicated the function of a button with only shape, or only colour.
I recommend a scale of 1-3 for determining impact:
- High Impact. Users will be unable to perform important system tasks or unable to understand important content if this item is left not repaired.
- Medium Impact. Users will be able to perform important system task with some level of difficulty or will be able to understand important content with difficulty if this item is left not repaired.
- Low Impact. Users will be inconvenienced by leaving this item not repaired, but will be able to accomplish all tasks.
– Karl Groves
What do you consider to be the highest priority when evaluating a design?
I think my priority would align with how the article author framed high impact items – things that would prevent a user from being able understand content and complete their desired tasks. What those items are might vary depending on what portion of say, an online course, users are looking at.
Should you consult with a developer about prioritizing accessibility issues?
Consulting a developer or analyst is something that should be done when prioritizing remediation efforts. In Karl’s piece, having an idea of traffic flow is one example of how this consultation can help to focus your efforts. Another example provided in the piece is the forms library, where a change could be made in one place that would affect forms all over the site or application. This latter example is fantastic. Where I often see issues with higher education online courses is that a template somewhere has influenced how courses are built and there is an error in it. An upcoming challenge I see is that online courses in higher education are constructed in a modular way, such that repeating elements are copies rather than being pulled from a library. This means if a common error appears all over a course, each instance needs to be corrected rather than a library being updated that propagates out to each use instance.
How would you recommend accessibility improvements if it requires a major overhaul of the user interface?
This is a really good question, and I would probably look back through Articulating Design Decisions for some pointers. Depending on the relationship with the client, a few possibilities are to: identify the problem and situate the solution within a return on investment framing, show and discuss new mocks that might be appealing to the client, do an environmental scan and find competitors who do things the way that I would be recommending (finding common design patterns), provide a low-medium-high effort set of tasks that could be done (acknowledging each requires significant work but that each level can be coordinated with other strategic goals).
Is it necessary for user experience and user interface designers to become experts in digital accessibility?
In the absence of an accessibility consultant, or similar role, then I would say it’s necessary for designers to learn about accessibility. I’m avoiding saying they should be expert, because designers are experts in their primary function, and accessibility has a depth of knowledge and skills that would take a long time to master. Not only that, but accessibility is often not a large part of the job function for many designers, and though many advocate for accessibility, it is something to tackle systematically not just individually.
Who should be involved with creating an accessibility evaluation report?
Like above, if an accessibility specialist/consultant is available then they should be the primary investigator for the evaluation report. In absence of that person, then a designer and or developer should be involved. In my context, we have four (-1) instructional designers. So one process we could start using is accessibility audits on courses developed by another designer. This would be useful because sometimes when you are the lead designer you are a little too close to see things clearly. A fresh set of eyes and a defined evaluation process could go a long way.
As a designer how could you contribute to the accessibility evaluation report?
Referring back to my previous replies, as a designer I could be the primary investigator. In the case of a consultant being the primary, I could serve as a participant in the process, answering questions as necessary or contributing to determining the remediation plan.
What is an accessibility statement?
Why is it important to provide an accessibility statement?
Not only does the statement signal your organization’s commitment to inclusivity (at least one form of inclusivity), but it is often required by law. For example, AODA requires organizations publicly post a statement of commitment to accessibility.
Who should be responsible for creating an accessibility statement?
The same team members and stakeholders in an organization who also work to ensure compliance with and legislation, or in the absence of legislation, work towards improving accessibility should be the same ones to develop the statement. This would ensure accuracy of the statement, especially in the sections of which measures were taken, and what still needs to be improved.