“Accessibility First” before “Mobile First”
Accessibility is feature on web which allows people with physical challenges to make use of the web and ensure that they continue their lives on a level footing like everyone else. Accessibility allows the web to adapt according to users with special needs.
On a personal level, I have always been fascinated with people who fight their way through the lives in-spite of the physical challenges. I am also equally disturbed when the infrastructure is not supportive towards individuals. Hardware is not flexible and software by its nature is expected to be adaptable to user. But, its needless to say how messed up software has become. Its got worse than hardware in many aspects.
In this blog, I intend to share my interaction with two individuals in my daily to whom a better accessibility to software could empower them to live a self sustaining life.
My interaction with people who could live a better life if they provided the Accessibility assistance:
The first person I met was my house maid. My maid is not well educated and is well versed only with Vernacular language. She is humble yet confident lady. A very contented person who has a smile on her face in-spite of the troubled personal condition. She was unable to even open a bank account as she did not understand the process to fill a form which was in English. I had to visit the bank on her behalf and co-ordinate to ensure that her requirement to open an account was fulfilled. On a personal interaction, I felt that only if the option to use a feature in their vernacular language, it could empower the individual to perform all the activities without a need for any external intervention. Also, this reduces the chances of being misused. Accessibility is also the inability to transfer information to the user.
The second person I met was a person who receives packages at DHL for courier. This person, aged around 45 years, had a deficiency in his right hand. He was only typing the form with his left hand and used it to prepare the courier receipt. In my conversation, he did share that in-spite of his deficiency, he drives his own vehicle and is contented with his life. One aspect which disturbed him that during the winter period, his left hand would also become numb and he would be on leave for nearly 2 months as he was perceived as useless by the company. He was a loyal employee of the firm for the past 18 years and felt that he was not given any concern or consideration to facilitate him during this period. His only expectation was a better keyboard, simpler interface and easier navigation with one hand or at times without it too.
The courage and positiveness of the two individuals stood out more than the challenges they faced. However, if we could keep these users in mind when we design then it could go a long way in integrating the whole humanity without any bias or deficiency.
A common thread in both was that they didn’t look for favor, they needed a nudge or a helping hand for them to feel equal. They were always made to feel less gifted than others by the day to day challenges due to their inability to comprehend or use the tools. If a simple nudge could transform an individual’s life, do we need any other motivation for incorporating accessibility into our tools/apps. Out motivations are restricted by the end user’s(i.e. client’s) representative. Often, we use the phrase, “Put yourself in their shoes”. In my opinion, its never fully possible to put ourselves in others shoes. We can relate to it. Only, if we could include diverse groups of users in our user research phase, can we get the real needs to users with disabilities.
We have heard a lot of “Mobile First”. In my experience, there are only few web pages in comparison to the whole gamut of web-pages, which are mobile first. I would rather propose that instead of keeping it “Mobile First“, it probably should be “Accessibility First“. Accessibility actually encompasses all types of users. By catering to people who face challenges, we make the page, simpler for use. In – essence ensure that its complaint with the basic principle of UX – Keep It Simple Silly.
I would like to hear your views on the topic.
The opinions expressed in this blog are personal.