It’s been a little while since my last week11y, partly because Mailchimp have recently upped their prices, meaning I’m no longer within the free tier. I’ve been procrastinating moving to a different provider, but will give that some more thought. I’ll also be on annual leave for a while now, so you won’t hear much more from me until June.
With that out of the way, onto this week’s issue!
Washington Post Design System
The world is divided into people who like perusing design systems, and those who don’t. I actually fall into the latter category – I find that these systems require a lot of time sunk into them, and often just reinvent the wheel – but even so, here’s the Washington Post version.
It’s worth a quick click through to see the accessibility checklist, the screen reader shortcuts, and the pretty comprehensive overview of alt text (from a technical implementation and content writing perspective).
10 Ways Designers and Researchers Can Meaningfully Engage With Disabled People in 2023
A thought-provoking article with some really useful takeaways.
Some tips are practical/logistical:
- Bring disabled people into your process “from the very beginning”, before you’ve locked in your design problem or research questions. Doing so allows you to make the best use of these community members, allowing them to lend their expertise and be true collaborators, rather than just ‘rubber-stamping’ your design.
- Offer remote and asynchronous participation. “Can you offer to do interviews over instant messaging or email? Can you run a focus group on Slack or Teams chat? Can you provide workshop materials and interview questions in advance so that your participants have extra time for cognitive processing?”
- Consider what changes you can make to properly reward your participants.
Others are a change in mindset:
- Reframe your design thinking: instead of “designing for” trust, you should “design against” abuse and exploitation. “Designing against” helps to avoid feature creep and lets you focus on just “the structural factors that are really, materially shaping those problems”.
- “Be Deliberate About How You Categorize / Segment Disability”, i.e. instead of asking “what kind of disability do you have?”, ask “which of these things are difficult or inaccessible for you?”. Understand that some people don’t yet have a medical diagnosis for their disability. Ask about barriers and difficulties rather than disabilities.
- Related: how should you hire disabled people in the first place? Traditional networking and going through large-scale disability charities is not inclusive, says the author. Instead, they propose hiring “a couple of disabled people as outreach coordinators”: people who are “politically engaged enough to be connected to small grassroots organizations, to be aware of current and ongoing issues within disability communities and how those need to be reflected in design research questions and recruitment profiles for research participants”.
- There are also sections in the article about “thinking about power”, stopping “ignoring invisibilized disability”, and “thinking about accessibility in terms of time and energy, not just space and matter”.
Progress Over Perfection: The Better Way for Communication and Accessibility Advocacy
This article by Meryl Evans really resonates with me.
Accessibility is big and daunting. It needs to be considered in every facet of an organisation: “HR needs to ensure the hiring and employee benefits processes are accessible. Procurement needs to ensure the company buys accessible products and services”. People will inevitably make mistakes – even Accessibility Advocates!
Progress isn’t always a straight line – sometimes it will go backwards. They key is to get started and keep moving. You can start with something as simple as an accessibility statement on your website, giving people an avenue for reporting accessibility issues. Don’t spend years trying to perfect everything behind the scenes before launching your 100% accessible product – be iterative.
One exception that muddies the rule a bit is the use of overlays. Whilst these have the feel of “progress over perfection”, they make your product less accessible, not more so. Better to ask companies to remove these overlays, through educating rather than berating. Meryl follows these four steps:
- Show gratitude for what they do right.
- Provide the suggestion.
- Explain the reason for the suggestion.
- End on a high note or with a thank you.
“Progress over perfection”, and being kind, gets results.
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