Lifeblue: Dallas Digital Agency and Interactive Web Design Firm

Let me start by saying, I am not a complete stranger to accessibility. I have been working in the web development arena for well over 10 years so the terms ADA standards, Section 508 Compliance, WC3 Compliance, etc. are all a part of my vernacular. I have my list of basic compliance requirements that upon checking off complete, I move on to the next task for the project. It is as simple as that, a check list.

Then last year, a presentation from Sharron Rush on Designing for Disabilities at the Big (D)esign Conference, leaves me with a completely new perspective on accessibility. All of a sudden I was aware of my own mortality as well. One comment she made stood out, “NO ONE is immune to disability”. We will all experience a disability of some sort in our lives. I started to see websites differently, with an empathy I never had before.

So I went back to my day-to-day but with this heightened perspective on making websites more user friendly. We are accustomed to creating web experiences for the user we identify with most and trust me, that is a job in itself. Now I added the complexity of user profiles with varying disabilities. Just that quickly, it hits me -- I have no budget for this! I can’t save the world with no budget!

Convincing clients to spend already tight budget dollars on new profiles, testing, etc. to make sites MORE accessible, was a non-starter. Unfortunately though, the profiles and testing results are what convince clients and team members that certain design decisions and subsequent changes are needed. Too many times design wins out over usability for no other reason that this looks better than that, with no disability testing, analytics or reporting to prove otherwise.

Fast forward a year later. I attend the same conference (#BigD12) and Sharron Rush is now giving the opening keynote. Awareness has grown! I look around and wonder how many are having that same shift in reality that I had experienced the year before? How many are going to struggle with the same issues I had in trying to make a difference? I am sure many.

Needless to say, accessibility is not going to be a checklist for much longer. We are all growing older and with that, stronger prescription glasses, more arthritis in the hands from the typing and mouse maneuvering, and god forbid hearing aids from the many years of loud concerts and amplified ear buds.

A few parting statements that I am keeping at the top of my checklist moving forward.

  • Content strategy – really is the foundation of the site. Jaw dropping design and awesome technology cannot endure without solid content strategy.
  • Assistive technologies – are getting better and more robust. Be aware of what we are building sites to communicate with.
  • Testing – must be less of an after-thought. Take more time and be more diligent.

Cristal GivensDigital Alchemist