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)

Igniting Accessibility for Ignite Denmark

Giving a 5-minute Ignite presentation is such an amazing learning experience. The expression mind-blowing is suitable to use.

What’s Ignite?

It’s an inspiration network. You have 5 minutes and 20 slides to “ignite” the audience with your passion. O’Reilly has the Ignite story for you. I think anyone who carries the label “communicator” ought to try an Ignite presentation at least once in their life.

Ignite Denmark manages the Danish sparks. I attended the World Usability Day / Ignite Denmark joint event in November 2010 and got so inspired that I foolishly promised to give a talk on accessibility at the next Ignite Denmark event, which was 1 March 2011. 🙂

This is the result of that promise.

My Ignite Presentation

I gave the presentation in Danish. The transcripts – in English and in Danish – are further along in this blog post.

I posted my slides to SlideShare.

The Credits and Thank Yous

I am very grateful to the following people:

I was nervous, but I had a great time doing this. Ignite is the perfect setup for talking about accessibility to the general public. This is what is discussed in accessibility circles on Twitter – raising awareness about accessibility in the general public so that everyone can get involved in making the world more inclusive.

The Transcript in English

The numbers here correspond roughly to the slide numbers. I include them for navigation purposes. I had some garbled sentences in the Danish (nerves!), so I tidied things up a bit in the English while keeping the original spontaneous flow. In fact, dissecting my speech in a transcript is kind of embarrassing, but the written word is completely different and more merciless than that spoken word. 🙂

  1. Hi. I am a technical communicator, writing manuals, user guides, and that sort of thing. I am passionate about accessibility. You can’t see that on the title slide because it is written in Braille: “Ignite Accessibility”. That was to tease you about communication.
  2. Accessibility, it’s about doing something so people with any type of disability can “get at” some thing – information or whatever. People with a disability – that’s us. It is all of us. The World Health Organization actually says that [quoted in the slide].
  3. They say it is a universal experience. I am passionate about accessibility thanks to my mom. She ignited this passion in me. She was a special education teacher, and I have known about this topic since I was 7 years old and
  4. I just think it is natural. In fact, I am so passionate about accessibility that I see it everywhere, even in a picture of ducks [where one duck is seemingly excluded by the others]. I think it’s kind of funny that someone else [at the evening’s Ignite presentations] included pictures of ducks. So being excluded, not being a part of the community,
  5. Not being able to hear a joke because you cannot hear, not being able to attend an event because there are stairs and you have someone saying “oh, couldn’t you come up the stairs? What’s the problem? Why can’t you participate”. But there are barriers. So
  6. … it’s about seeing these situations and being more open to them. There was a lovely old man – he wasn’t afraid to stick out his neck [making a reference to an earlier presentation about daring to dare]. William Loughborough, who died last year, was very involved with web accessibility, and he cursed all those who didn’t think about it
  7. in the year 2010, now 2011, because there are so many things you can do with it. There’s assistive technology, which lets you use computers and other things like a bike, a racing bike, which, despite your not having legs, lets you live out your potential, live your dream – something we’ve talked quite a bit about tonight.
  8. And we who design things, whether you design words, develop, or whatever – when we do not listen to users with needs who say “make room for us”, then we fail. We fail as designers if we don’t think of these things.
  9. And it takes so little. A simple little sign that shows the way. You don’t have to worry “gasp! Can I do this? Where is my destination?” A simple little sign, just from listening to users.
  10. And there is also potential. Maybe there is a little boy who is passionate – again with all those dreams we’ve discussed – passionate about being a chemist, a great inventor, and he can – because there is technology that makes it possible for him to live out his dreams, live his passion.
  11. And if you don’t have compassion/understanding, there’s money in all this. People with disabilities is the third largest consumer market in the US – people who use products related to their disability. A million, a trillion dollars. 80 million pounds in the UK. [I speak numbers that don’t match the slides. The slides are correct.] There is money in all this.
  12. And there is the law. Plus that, if you plan things well from the beginning and integrate things from Day 1, things are more harmonic, they fit together, you have something for everyone and not just something that you add on as an afterthought,
  13. But something that everyone can enjoy from Day 1. So if you think, OK, this sounds interesting, but where do I get – I’m confused – where can I find guidelines or information? Well, for people who work with the Web, the World Wide Web Consortium has made something called
  14. the Web Accessibility Initiative, and they have a ton of resources. Really good stuff. They have business cases, for example, so if you need to discuss with someone yada yada yada, they have the information that you can use to convince others that they need something that is more accessible.
  15. There is also a book [Just Ask], written by the person [Shawn Lawton Henry] running the Web Accessibility Initiative. It describes how you can integrate accessibility into your design. And even though I talk about the web, I think this can be applied completely to all other professions.
  16. For example, there is a book called “Seeing Voices”, which I have fallen in love with because it is about Deaf culture, and I learned that deafness, in my opinion after reading this, is not a disability, but a culture. Your eyes and your mind are opened to the perspectives of completely different worlds, so to speak.
  17. And you find so much – the sign in American Sign Language [ASL] for love [with reference to what is on the slide behind me] – you win so much, you get new communication opportunities that open up. All the problems, all the challenges that you come with,
  18. They can be solved by involving the entire world. So we can be more inclusive with all these things. And we have to work fast. In 2050, 30% of Europe’s population will be over 65. We must make things possible to use, so we can sit here and come to Ignite or whatever when we are 90 years old.
  19. There are loads of people working on this. This [refering to slide behind me with Twitter names] is just a fraction of those people I follow on Twitter who are super clever. They live out their dream, that’s for sure, and that is fantastic.
  20. And I can only encourage you to join the ranks. Think accessibility in your lives and then we can have that “over the rainbow” experience. Thanks for listening [I make a quick ASL sign for love].

The Transcript in Danish

  1. Hej. Jeg er en teknisk kommunikatør, skriver manualer, brugervejledninger og den slags ting, og jeg brænder for tilgængelighed. Det kaldes “accessibility”. Det kan I ikke læse deroppe fordi det er skrevet på Braille: “Ignite Accessibility”. Det var lige for at drille jer om kommunikation.
  2. Fordi accessibility, det handler om noget for at gøre at folk med enhver handikap kan “komme til” nogen ting, information eller hvad det nu er. Fordi folkene med handikap, det er os. Det er os allesammen. Det siger World Health Organization faktisk.
  3. Så de siger det er en universal oplevelse. Og jeg brænder for tilgængelighed fordi det’ min mor. Det er min mor der har tændt mig for den her passion. Hun var specielundervisningslærer og jeg har kendt til det siden jeg var 7 år gammel og
  4. Jeg synes bare det var naturligt. Altså jeg brænder faktisk så meget for tilgængelighed at jeg ser det allevegne, selv i nogle ænder, hvilke jeg synes var meget pudsig at vi har lige haft nogle andre ænder [tidligere på aftenen], men at det at være ekskluderet, at ikke kunne være en del af fælleskabet,
  5. at ikke kunne høre en vittighed fordi man ikke kan høre, at ikke komme til et arrangement fordi der er nogle trapper og så nogen der ikke tænker på “hov, kunne vi ikke komme op ad trappen?” Hvad er problemet? Hvorfor kan du ikke være med? Men der er nogle forhindringer. Så
  6. … det gælder om at se de her ting, at være mere åben til det. Der var en dejlig gammel mand som – han kunne nikke en giraf en skalle [reference til en tidligere presentation om at turde]. William Loughborough, der døde sidste år, var meget aktiv indenfor web tilgængelighed, og han forbandede allesammen der ikke tænkte på det
  7. i år 2010, 2011, fordi der er så mange ting man kan gør med det. Det er det man kalder assistive technology, altså mulighed for at bruge computere og andre ting. Også en cykel, en racer, på trods af at man ikke har nogle ben for at udleve sin potential, at leve sin drøm – det man har snakket om her til aften.
  8. Og vi der designer ting, om du er designer af ord, af udvikling, af hvad det nu er for noget, når vi ikke lytter til brugere der har et behov og siger “kan du godt lade os komme til”, så fejler vi. Vi fejler som designere hvis vi ikke tænker på de her ting.
  9. Og der er så lidt der skal til. Fordi det er bare en enkelt lille skilt hvor du får en vej – du får vist vejen frem. Du skal ikke bekymrer dig, “gisp, kan jeg klare det her? Hvor er min destination?” Lille simpel skilt, bare ved at lytte til sine brugere.
  10. Og der også noget potentiel. Måske er der en lille knægt der brænder – ligesom alle de her drømme igen – brænder om at være kemiker og stor opfinder, og det kan han godt, fordi der findes noget teknologi der gør at han kan bruge sin, at han kan leve sine drømme ud. Lev sin passion.
  11. Og hvis du ikke har medlidenhed, så er der altså penge i det. Det skulle være det 3. største forbruger marked i USA – det er folk der bruger produkter der har noget at gøre med handikap. En million – en trillion dollar, 80 millioner pund i UK [ord stemmer ikke helt med tallene på skærmen]. Der er altså penge i det der.
  12. Og så er der lovgivning. Og plus det, at hvis du planlægger godt fra grunden af, og integrere ting fra Dag 1, så bliver ting mere harmoniske, de hænger sammen, du har noget for alle. Ikke bare noget der bliver klappet på bagefter
  13. men noget som alle kan nyde fra Dag 1. Og hvis du tænker, ja, OK, det lyder interessant, men hvor skal jeg hente – jeg er forvirret, altså hvor er der nogle vejledninger? Jamen. det har – for web folk – det har World Wide Web consortiet, de har lavet noget der hedder
  14. Web Accessibility Initiative, og de har et hav af ressourcer. Virkelig gode ting. De har business cases, fx så hvis du skal argumentere overfor nogen at “hallo bum bum bum bum” de har informationer som du kan overvinde andre om at de skal have nogle ting der er mere tilgængelig
  15. Der er også en bog, skrevet af hende der styrer det der web accessibility initiative. Det beskriver hvordan du skal integrere tilgængelighed i din design. Og selvom jeg snakker om web, jeg synes det kan overføres til alle andre fag fuldstændigt
  16. For eksempel der er en bog der hedder “Seeing Voices” som jeg er blevet helt forelsket i, fordi det handler om Døv kultur, og jeg lærte at døvhed, efter min mening efter at have læst det her, det er ikke en handikap, det er et kultur. Du får åbnet dine øjne og dit sind op for nogle helt andre verdeners anskuelser, om man så må sige,
  17. Og du finder så meget – det tegn i Amerikansk Tegnesprog for kærlighed – du vinder så meget, du får nye kommunikationsmuligheder, åbner op. Alle de problemer, alle de udfordringer du er kommet med,
  18. de kan løses med at inddrage HELE verden. At vi bliver mere inklusive med alle de her ting. Og vi skal arbejde hurtigt fordi i år 2050, bliver 30% af Europas befolkning over 65. Vi skal gøre tingene mulig for os at bruge, så vi kan sidde her og komme til Ignite og hvad ved jeg når vi er 90 år gammel.
  19. Der er en masse folk der arbejder på det. Det her er bare en brøkdel af de folk jeg følger på Twitter som er knalddygtig. De lever deres drømme ud, det gør de helt sikkert og det er helt fantastisk.
  20. Og jeg kan kun opfordrer jer til at melde jer til fanerne. Tænk tilgængelighed i jeres liv og så kan vi have det der “over the rainbow” oplevelse. Tak for i aften [lavet tegn for kærlighed].

Plugging Accessibility and Inclusion at Ignite Denmark

Present 20 slides in 5 minutes. That’s how Ignite works.

The next Danish Ignite event takes place on March 1st. I’ll be there. Presenting. Whew! It’s a part of the Global Ignite Week.

Those of us who are presenting will follow the Ignite motto: “Enlighten us, but make it quick.”

What personal and professional passion will I share in twenty 15-second chunks?

Accessibility and inclusion.

I’m very grateful to @techwriterkai for sharing this post about the fastest way to create an Ignite presentation. Ideas are forming and I have sketches of ideas. Olivia Mitchell’s tips seem to be the perfect way to structure my snippets. Thanks, Kai!

My point of view on accessibility will be from the technical communicator’s point of view. After all, tech comms is my field. I think my information will be relevant to many of the fields connected to technical communication – usability and user experience, design, development (both software and hardware, perhaps), and more.

(By the way, with all the talk of certification in the field of technical communication, I wonder whether a successful Ignite presentation is a better certificate. I mean, you have only 5 minutes to communicate your heart out! It must be a communication IronMan. 🙂 )

I have little fear of standing up in front of a crowd with the bright lights pointed right at my face. I am more concerned about getting my passion across those lights and into the minds of the audience. Accessibility and inclusion are issues that involve us all, and I plan to explain how and why. Igniting those minds is all that matters!