The language of inclusion on a form

While surfing Twitter, I was drawn to this article because of its title: “Disability-smart customer service: handling difficult situations“. I clicked the link to get to the article, but I didn’t read it. I happened to scroll at the same time and ended up at the registration form section of the page. The form really caught my attention.

After the usual name and email fields on the form, I saw a text box labelled “Adjustments”. Inside the box, placeholder text stated:

Please tell us if you require any adjustments for this event e.g. dietary, access, assistance, alternative formats, interpreters or disabled parking

Screenshot of the registration form showing the Adjustments text box in the middle of the form.

I think using the term adjustments and the language of the placeholder text is neutral. This could be far less stigmatising than the label of “Disabilities”, “Accessibility”, or “Special Needs”, and much more inclusive.

The article is on the Business Disability Forum website. The event for this registration is aimed at “Customer service managers and supervisors responsible for resolving complaints and handling complex situations that may be related to a customer’s disability.” The event will discuss “some of the more challenging situations faced by customer service professionals when interacting with members of the public particularly when they have non-visible disabilities such as mental health problems, learning difficulties, dementia, autism or Asperger’s or sensory impairments that aren’t immediately apparent.”

I have no affiliation with this event or website. I just wanted to share an example of more inclusive language – simple microcopy that can make a positive difference. Nice to see that they aim to “walk the talk”.

In which I rant about Twitter and quoted tweets

I am so annoyed with Twitter’s changes to the quoted tweet that I actually decided to write a blog post about it!

I posted a mild rant on Twitter the other day about the change to quoting a tweet:

What is with the new quote style on #Twitter iOS app? Is quoted tweet an image?? If yes, that’s bad for accessibility.

If you view that link, you will see a long discussion mostly in Danish.

From my other account, @accesstechcomm, I retweeted my mild rant. There, I got a reply from @patrick_h_lauke where he said

it IS announced reasonably using VO (though getting some funky focus/context issues it seems), so not just image

Funky seems to be an inappropriate word to use with a user experience. (VO is VoiceOver, the built-in (built-in!!) screenreader on Apple products.)

It was a relief to find @aardrian’s blog post about the quoted tweet thing as an accidental accessibility improvement. That aspect was also cool to discover. I mean, how many images are floating about on the internet without alt text? Many. Too many. I hoped to drive people to discuss this issue on @aardrian‘s post, but no one took the bait. I finally did, but then moved my entire rant here so as not to upset @aardrian’s delicate constitution!

From @accesstechcomm, I tweeted (twice):

(RT) I’d really like to see lots of discussion on @aardrian’s post re: #Twitter’s change to quoted tweets. #a11y #ux

And @aardrian replied:

Ditto. Though not so much on my post, but instead on the whole quoted-image-tweet-as-#a11y-aid thing.

@aardrian sent that reply to me (as @accesstechcomm) with the quoted tweet feature as shown in this screenshot from the Twitter web app showing notifications to my account:

I circled his entire tweet in red. The screenshot includes a later notification tweet from @aliceandrachel to illustrate another point…

I couldn’t see that same tweet at all in my mentions on Hootsuite because my Twitter name was inside that box and therefore not visible to Hootsuite to regard as a mention! The screenshot shows the @aliceandrachel mention, but the @aardrian mention where my Twitter name is hidden inside the quoted section is missing:

Argh!! There are so many things that irritate me about this “enhancement” or “new feature” that I don’t know where to begin.

Oh, and I see it in the notifications section on Twitter on the web, but not in the mentions for the reasons I just, uh, mentioned.

I decided to post a comment on @aardrian’s blog post. I clicked on the link I could see in the quoted part of his tweet. All that happened was that I went to my original tweet. Only then did that URL turn active. Now I could click again! This time, it worked and I arrived at the blog post. Two clicks shouldn’t be bad because you know where you are going, as Jakob Nielsen says. Here, 2 clicks was an annoying pain. I was rudely surprised that my first click didn’t take me to the blog post. Might this be a slight cognition issue in some cases? Readers of “The Inmates Are Running the Asylum” know that the user always blames themself. As in, “I didn’t get to where I wanted to go to, so I must have done something wrong”, and not, “someone coded or designed this poorly and is making me work more and think more”. Bad! Bad Twitter! More ARGH!

I think the idea of being able to add alt text as @aardrian points out is marvelous. Of course, we can all just use the EasyChirp Twitter client on the Web, which now lets you add alt text. @EasyChirp is fixing something that @Twitter should have had in the first place! I have a sneaking suspicion that only sighted people who know what alt text is are thinking like @aardrian is in his blog post. There are millions who are clueless about the existence of alt text and happily tossing pictures of whatever around the twittersphere every day, blissfully unaware of those they are excluding from the discussion or the laugh.

And this morning I discovered this news from Medium: Medium proudly announces the text-shots feature. Ugh. It’s an uphill battle.

Over on my own Twitter account (@kmdk), I complained the moment I saw this quoted tweet thing as I wrote at the beginning of this rant. I often use the quoted tweet feature as a basis for a new tweet. I use part of the original tweet like the URL, a phrase, and/or hashtags, and then I add more to it – classic curation. You can’t do that on Twitter iOS any more. You can (still) curate on the Tweetbot (iOS) app, which I did. Ditto on Hootsuite and, of course, EasyChirp. When I tweeted my complaint, one person told me it was an awesome feature and why would it be a problem. A friend stepped in and said “screenreader”. I was relieved when @patrick_h_lauke said (see first part of this rant) that the screenreader could get at the quoted text, but how does a screenreader get into this text box, which is apparently not quite an image, and I cannot?

Another user pointed out with great concern that anything like hashtags or (as I already mentioned) URLs do not function inside this quoted section. This is where I thought sighted people, especially those working with social media professionally, would get very upset. When searching on a hashtag, these tweets will not appear. Thus, if you use the quoted tweet to quote something from your favourite restaurant with the hashtag #FavRestaurant to win a prize, that restaurant won’t find your tweet when searching for those who retweeted the tweet for the competition. Fans quoting tweets with their fav sports team / movie star / movie / whatever hashtag will not appear in the hashtag search, which can disappoint severely, what with them being fans and all.

I took two screenshots to show the different behaviour of the quoted tweets in two different iOS apps. They don’t have URLs or hashtags, but bear with me.

First, I show a tweet from @patrick_h_lauke from Twitter iOS where the quoted tweet appears as a box inside his tweet:

Then I looked at that same tweet on Tweetbot iOS and there is a URL in place of the quoted tweet:

Consistent user experience, anyone? In other words, there is some weirdness going on here that seems to go against the whole point of hashtags and sharing.

My head hurts when I try to figure out the whole alt image thing that @aardrian describes. I mean, if I cannot quote my own tweet with an image, how am I supposed to provide that service, especially on a mobile device? I really have to think a lot to figure out the best way to tweet an image on my own share someone else’s image and get the alt text in there. Again, those who know about alt text may make the extra step. Your average alt-text-ignorant user will not.

I really really really hope Twitter is listening to all this, although I have only read the voices of four people even discussing this issue. I want to see Twitter have their devs and designers walk through the whole process and test with users of all abilities for a change.

PS If you work in tech and haven’t read “The Inmates Are Running the Asylum”, go get The Inmates now from Amazon or from your local library. We must stamp out the apologists!

PPS To counter the negative vibrations in this rant, go visit @marcysutton‘s new Tumblr blog called Accessibility Wins and cheer up a bit.

My Ignite talk at UX Camp CPH 2014

My Ignite talk on the first day of UX Camp CPH was a success! Here is the transcript. The video is available on Slideshare and is embedded at the end of the transcript. All images are described here in parentheses for each slide. If there is an RM before the word “image”, it means the images come from Rosenfeld Media’s Flickr account where they are CC by 2.0. All other images are my own or from Wikimedia Commons .

The text here is my guess as to what I said! It was based on some key words, but somewhat spontaneous and changed over the many times I practiced!

Slide 1

Hi. We are going to talk about user experience over today and tomorrow here, in case you hadn’t noticed. I want to talk about accessible user experience. I have a few minutes to discuss this. You have a lifetime to follow up.

Slide 2

Let’s start with an example of a pain point we all know. The cost of the development/design lifecycle. Fixes are cheap early on, but expense late in the process. Accessibility is often thought of late, so it’s expensive, so it gets dropped. How can we change this pattern? (Image shows an x, y axis with a Euro sign on the y axis and a clock on the x axis. A curve starts low on the money and time axes and moves right, curving up to be high on the money and time axes. Hand-drawn in Sketch on the iPad.)

Slide 3

There are a couple of books that can help you build accessibility in from the beginning. One is the free, online book called Just Ask, which is a great resource. I want to focus on A Web for Everyone published in January by Rosenfeld Media – a sponsor! It’s the inspiration for my talk.
(Images of the two books’ covers.)

Slide 4

The authors [Whitney Quesenbery and Sarah Horton] propose a framework of 9 principles for helping you build a practice of accessible user experience. I am going to introduce you to those 9 principles now.

  1. People first
  2. Clear purpose
  3. Solid structure
  4. Easy interaction
  5. Helpful way finding
  6. Clean presentation
  7. Plain language
  8. Accessible media
  9. Universal usability

Slide 5

Principle 1. People first
I hope this is an obvious choice for you. You know about personas. Well, are you designing for differences? Are you working with people with disabilities? (RM images for some of the personas from the “A Web for Everyone” book: Persona Carol, Persona Trevor, Persona Jacob, Persona Lea) You really should be because…

Slide 6

Disability is … a universal human experience. (Extract from a quote from WHO at I keep using this quote in my presentations and will continue to do so to hammer home this message. We all have various abilities and we should be designing for them.

Slide 7

When we ignore people with disabilities, we are creating Digital Outcasts. Technology can leave these people behind, but… necessity being the mother of invention, they are doing it for themselves. A lot of innovation is going on here. Why not work with people with disabilities and benefit from that synergy?
(Image of the book “Digital Outcasts” by Kel Smith.)

Slide 8

Principle 2. Clear purpose
This is having clear goals. Imagine working on the user experience of voting forms for an entire nation. You certainly need to consider different abilities. Once you start working that way, I think accessibility will always be part of how you work. (Reference to a quote from Sarah Swierenga, Director of Usability and Accessibility Research Center, Michigan State University, in the book.)
(Image of one of the “Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent” from

Slide 9

Principle 3. Solid structure
Of course, you need a solid structure underneath all your design. Built on standards. For example, headings that can be seen visually, but also interpreted by a screen reader.
(RM image of jelly bean page on wikipedia and an image of a screen reader listing headings.)

Slide 10

Principle 4. Easy Interaction
Things should just work. This continues the idea of the standards coding. You shouldn’t have a keyboard user get trapped inside a video viewer where only a mouse click can help them escape. A blind person wouldn’t use a mouse.
(Screenshot image of Easy YouTube from

Slide 11

Principle 5. Helpful Wayfinding
When you click on a link on a page, do you get to the destination you are expecting? When you get there, can you find what you are looking for? I let these pages speak for themselves.
(Two screenshots from the Danish-language site about setting up the Danish Digital Mailbox: first, the page about setting up the digital mailbox where I clicked the link in step one on the page to get to the actual task of setting up the mailbox.)

Slide 12

Principle 6. Clean Presentation
This covers typography or color. I show an image of 6 lines of color. I placed colorblindness filters on top of part of that image. What colors are you perceiving? What does that mean for your design?
(Images from wikipedia: The Rainbow flag and the same image manipulated to show protanopia, deuteranopia, and tritanopia.)

Slide 13

Principle 7. Plain language
Let me emphasize. Plain language is not dumbing down. It is using the language that is appropriate for your audience so they can start their conversations. I love Ginny Redish. This is a great book. Just go buy it, read it, and keep it on your shelf for reference.
(Image of the “Letting Go of the Words” book by Janice (Ginny) Redish.)

Slide 14

Principle 8. Accessible media
Do you have audio or video on your site? Are you preparing audio description, captions, or transcripts for them? These benefit not only the deaf and blind communities. Others can use them, too.
(Image taken from one of my older presentations where I describe how to caption YouTube videos.)

Slide 15

Principle 9. Universal Usability
Here we have the 9th principle where we can transcend technology and just be ourselves and enjoy our lives without a lot of clunky things to bother us.
(Image of a TDD machine to represent the old way and a screen shot of a man using Apple’s FaceTime to sign with his girlfriend on the iPhone 4 from a YouTube video.)

Slide 16

So why not get started with baby steps? May 15th is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Try unplugging your mouse that day, all day. How much can you do at all without the mouse? Try it! (Follow @gbla11yday on Twitter plus the #GAAD hashtag.) (Image of statue of mother holding a baby taking steps.)

Slide 17

Or could you sign your name to a document stating that you had considered accessibility throughout your project and that you had involved people with disabilities in your research? Could you do that?
(Image of John Hancock’s signature. The quote on the slide “…a document must be signed off by the responsible party annually to show that you have considered accessibility in your design and you have reached out to the user community and experts in the field…” comes from the episode of A Podcast for Everyone about CVAA with Larry Goldberg.)

Slide 18

I don’t think that the creators of the Danish Digital Mailbox took any of the 9 principles into account. Of course the book didn’t exist then, but perhaps we lack enough knowledge in the Nordic area?
(Screenshot of the Danish-language site Malene and the Digital Mailbox in Danish only that covers – in Danish – one person’s troubles with the Danish Digital Mailbox. See also another great article – in Danish by Susanna Rankenberg for additional excellent discussions on the same topic.)

Slide 19

I could only think of Funka Nu in Sweden as a place that works with accessible user experience. Are there others? Maybe we need to build more knowledge. This could be a business opportunity for you.
(Screenshot of the Funka Nu website and a link to the Swedish languge page with their mobile accessibility guidelines in multiple languages.)

Slide 20

Maybe you can go out and be the early bird who gets the worm. You can build the knowledge that helps you saves costs for customers so you can build a web for everyone.
(Image of robin feeding a worm to a young robin in the nest)