World Usability Day 2017: Accessibility, Usability, and User Experience

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world usability day logoToday is World Usability Day. This year’s theme is “Inclusion through User Experience,” which is excellent because it promotes the idea of an inclusive web, which has been Knowbility’s vision since the very beginning.

You might ask: “What’s usability?” In this context, we’re talking about making websites easier to use for everyone. This means matching the site’s design and functionality to user needs and requirements. In other words, we’re talking about improving user experience for everyone.

Billy Gregory once asked:  “When UX doesn’t consider ALL users, shouldn’t it be known as ‘SOME User Experience’ or… ‘SUX?’.” It is mission critical that when thinking about usability and user experience, we consider accessibility.

Accessibility is an integral part of everything, including usability. Not all usability experts have as much exposure to accessibility as we’d like. It even sometimes feels like some usability experts willfully ignore accessibility, but Mark Palmer, a user experience specialist with a large public sector organization in the UK, points out there’s a difference between lack of knowledge and willful ignorance:

I work very closely with developers and with other user experience professionals, who maybe don’t necessarily know as much about accessibility. As long as they’re willing to learn, as long as they’re willing to put into practice what you show them, what they see when they observe sessions, whether users with impairments, then I think that’s great.

Denis Boudreau, principal consultant with Deque, used to think accessibility was a separate area of expertise. Now, he looks at accessibility as a subset of usability and/or user experience. He says:

If you look at UX, for instance, the goal of a UX designer will be to make sure the experience that he or she creates will work well with the intended audience. That they will get satisfaction and pleasure from using that interface. In accessibility, we do the same thing, but our focus is not so much on this particular type of user, but rather users that happen to have a disability or users that happen to be older, and may struggle with content, or users that may be marginalized by technology, one way or another.

Sina Bahram runs Prime Access Consulting, an accessibility firm in North Carolina. He shares Denis’s point of view, and explains it a bit differently:

Accessibility is the more specific things we do involving assistive technologies and things of that nature, where inclusive design and universal design are the principles that we apply to try [to] limit the amount of accessibility specific things that we do because it’s usable for everybody.

Arthur Gouveia, a developer with Shopify has something important to add:

It doesn’t really matter how we refer to what we do. Whether we call it accessibility or inclusive design, or whether we fit accessibility as a subset or a cousin of usability, in the end, it’s going to be a pain point for developers. And it will matter for users – regardless of ability or impairment.

At Knowbility, we strive to share our knowledge, understanding and expertise about accessibility, usability and user experience. We want to help developers and usability experts gain a greater understanding of accessibility. Our vision is for an inclusive web. An important pathway towards that goal is improved user experience that considers accessibility.

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