Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

UXPA - Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2020

This week UXPA celebrated the 9th annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

We had two great talks, the first by Dafydd Henke-Reed from AbilityNet and the second by Gareth Ford Williams and Charlie Turrell from the BBC.

Dafydd started off by talking about Accessibility Anti-patterns. While we have probably all heard of UX dark patterns, accessibility anti patterns can be just as harmful, but often happen when people do not think through the implications of what they are doing.

For instance adding alt text to decorative images when there is text on the page that will explain what it is, actually makes the experience for a screen reader much worse (reading out the alt text along with the text description making for a much longer/slower experience).

He then suggested that bad ARIA was worse than no ARIA, and we should really be looking to write good semantic HTML and CSS before adding ARIA.

Dafydd also reminded us that there is no magic bullet. Plug-ins and sidebars that suggest that they will fix all the issues for us are mistaken, often causing more issues than they fix.

He asked us to be careful when using hidden code strings, as it is very easily broken and hard to scale. There are better ways of doing this.

But if you are doing accessibility be vocal about it and get your users to help you with research and feedback. Have champions inside rather than outsourcing to an ‘accessibility’ company.

Which linked very nicely to the second talk about the Accessibility Champion Network at the BBC.

The BBC have created their own accessibility guidelines which you can find at the GEL site. But to really get it embedded in the way they work across the BBC they have created an accessibility network which covers all the different departments.

This means that it does not matter how differently the departments work - for instance Sport and Childrens content work at very different speeds with very different focus but still use the same guidelines.

The champions, there are about 200 of them, all attend the same training and are in constant contact via Slack and events, they are the voice of accessibility within the different sprints happening across the organisation.

But my favourite quote of the evening was, ‘accessibility doesn’t belong to anyone because it has to be in everything’.

They were both really interesting talks which got me thinking about how I can take this back to my team. Especially the champion network, which I think would work really well in an organisation the size of the one I work for.

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