Thursday the 18th of May is Global Accessibility Awareness Day [GAAD] and my strongest recommendation for creating more accessible products and services is to look for the helpers.
One of my favorite quotes of all times comes from Fred Rogers, host of the American PBS TV series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
Right now we’re seeing lots of scary things in the news, and it has become increasingly important to promote and be inspired by the people who are making the world a better place with great design. At this year’s From Business to Buttons conference there were loads of great examples of helpers to be inspired by.
In his talk on How to Fight Fascism, Mike Monteiro gave some well earned praise to Dana Chisnell for her work with improving the election process at the Center for Civic Design, as well as Nick O’Neill and Rebecca Kaufman who built 5 calls, a site that makes it super easy to call congress people. I was also very happy that he gave a shout out to Robyn Kanner who has done awesome work with helping trans people get access to quality healthcare through MyTransHealth. Robyn has been a huge inspiration to me, and she was kind enough to give me great feedback that helped me put together my talk on Designing for All Genders.
Thinking outside the idealised use case
Eric Meyer's talk on Engaging with Compassion was all about thinking outside the idealised use case and doing everything we can to anticipate and prevent negative impact. He recommended Inclusive Design at Microsoft which is a great page with helpful resources for getting started with creating more inclusive designs that will benefit everybody.
Eric A. Meyer during the workshop.
The day after the From Business to Buttons conference, I was lucky enough to attend Eric’s workshop. He introduced us to some great tools from his book Designing for Real Life that he co-wrote with Sara Wachter-Boettcher, including doing pre-mortems to anticipate things that might go wrong with our design. Like Mike, Eric also talked about Dana Chisnell’s work with improving the election process and gave us a quote from Dana that might just become one of my new favorites:
“I came away from that study thinking, why are we testing with anyone with high literacy? Designing for people with low literacy would make it easier for people who are distressed, distracted, sleep-deprived, on medication, whatever. If I could build this into everything, I would.”
And if you feel ready to become a helper like Dana, why not start testing your designs on people with permanent disabilities to make them more accessible to everybody? And feel free to contact me if you need any more inspiration or arguments for inclusive design.