I intentionally share this story today, for today is the day after the Lord Mayor’s parade.
Yesterday was the International Day of Person’s with Disabilities. It was rightly a day of recognition, celebration and remembrance of the work done to that date.
We lit digital and physical alight with the purple of #PurpleLightUp, we raised the voices of those that most need raising, we followed the lead of groups like the Valuable500 and we paused and thought - as an industry -about what we can do to build it back better for all of society.
This last year to me has felt something of a turning point, inclusive design, accessibility, disabled rights or just humanity, call it what you will, but it gained a pace i’ve not seen in my many years of involvement in this work.
But much like those original protesters who sat, and crawled, up the steps of The Capitol building in Washington to demand the original ADA legislation we have a long way to go.
For now we only sit on those steps, our next job is to build the ramp, install the lift, implement the rails, paint the lines and concrete in the physical bumps in our digital world that finally mean our access is equal.
Today is not day one, day one began many, many years ago, but today is the day to put into actions the statements we made in our social & talks yesterday; to prove that what we’re doing is more than a design trend or piece of clever CSR born from a moment, to make us feel better or raise our personal profiles.
Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.
Reject the eagerness to patronise the art of HTML, or to think it’s “simple”; champion semantics; move to accessibility driven development.
I must be honest I never saw myself quoting George Bush in saying that we should tear down this shameful wall of exclusion, but in this he is absolutely right, we are 30 years on from the US ADA, 25 from the UK’s own equalities act, yet our digital walls still exist, and we as professionals need to tear them down.
The task may seem hard, daunting, even scary. If you work on a legacy platform or as a single person on a small team then where do you start? Well to me the answer is almost overly simply, you start where you can.
If you’re a developer then you start by learning the impact of your design choices, you look at the most basic building blocks of the web, HTML, and you give it the due care, attention and love it deserves.
You reject the eagerness to patronise the art of HTML, or to think it’s “simple”; you champion semantics; you move to accessibility driven development.
These ideas are not new, when I was learning front end the first test I did before any was to turn off CSS and see how my content flowed, and we can still do that now.
Likewise we pepper our websites with ARIA to fix poor design choices, and along the way we have forgotten the first rule of ARIA
Don’t use ARIA, use native HTML instead
Before you use ARIA, use native HTML elements or attributes first
Are we making a choice, as a developer, to create something for ourselves? Or are we making that choice for our users? Have we tested what we’ve built properly? Because if we’re not testing with assistive technology are we only doing half a job?
Are we doing that animation for ourselves or our peers? Have we considered how we give the option to turn it off? Or what it looks like with reduced motion? Have we thought of the labelling for assistive technology?
Because if we haven’t then are we really designing? Or are we simply playing out ideals of being an artist or illustrator. Form over function, yet the function we strip, we strip from those that can afford it the least.
And so the dust settles.
Today is the day after the Lord Mayor’s parade, it’s much the same as the day before it, the hard slog still exists. Yet it’s that hard slog that builds great futures.
Today and tomorrow i’ll be building, designing, testing and thinking about what i’ve created and how my choices impact upon everyone, I will probably still get somethings wrong but i’ll always try and make all things I work on better.
Today is the day after the Lord Mayor’s parade, today is the next day in our journey to not needing a parade at all.
Director of Experience Technologies at Kin+Carta, and a member of BIMA’s Inclusive Design Council