I’m really excited – I was chosen to speak at the 2012 SxSW Interactive Festival next year, presenting How the iPad Can Save Accessibility. I got the notice some time ago, but things have been so hectic that I haven’t gotten around to posting it. I tried for both SxSW and IxDA’s Interaction 2012 in Dublin, Ireland¹, and received my notice of success just after I saw my name on the announcement list.
Here is the original synopsis I came up with (which ended up being shortened to fit in the 1,500-character maximum):
How the iPad Can Save Accessibility
A long time ago, in a galaxy before HTML5…
Usability has come a long way since the dark days before “Designing with Web Standards”, with advocates pushing web usability to the forefront of almost all web design projects. Now, nearly all companies see the value of UX in their digital designs. But despite heightened focus on user-centered development, accessibility hasn’t had quite the same level of acceptance – noted, understood perhaps but ultimately implemented as a matter of convenience when it didn’t affect ROI or timing.
So, those who have accessibility needs have persevered and pushed, gaining traction as advocates pushed the envelope in creating sites that were beautiful, compelling AND accessibility. Still, users struggled through image-heavy sites missing alt tags, functional sites that required a mouse to use, designs that they couldn’t read and videos they couldn’t understand because there was no text alternative.
Enter smartphones like the iPhone and Android … and then the iPad. With the proliferation of non-desktop devices and browsers, suddenly a more people were finding that the web wasn’t as nice and clean as they remembered. Broken formatting, too small text, buttons and functionality didn’t work because they couldn’t hover. And entire swaths of the web rendered as Flash-based wastelands that millions couldn’t access.
The people cried out and developers listened, and things began to change. They called them ‘iPhone versions’, they tested in a wider range of browsers, they made things work better. And strangely, when they made these fixes, they actually also made things better for accessibility. And as we’ve figured out how to make our sites & web apps work better on the new splinter web, we’re figuring out that helping our iPad users helps all users.
For better or worse, by solving for many of the issues that iOS and other mobile users have with our websites, we can address the same needs that have always been there but are now more exposed. Better yet, we can take advantage of the accessibility capabilities that are built into mobile devices to in some cases make these newest devices in some cases better than the old web.
I’m pretty stoked to get back to SxSW (I had a great trip last year), and hope that I can come up with an engaging presentation of my own this time around.
¹I submitted 2 proposals to IxDA including this same one and another called “Twitchers & Twitter: What Birding Can Teach Us About Content Strategy”.