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)

The haves and the have-nots

I am worried about our society and the attitudes we have toward each other. My worry is anecdotal, something I sense in my occasional dips into the passing Twitter stream. In the past month or so, I have read tweets about poverty and what seems to be an increase in discussion about the haves versus the have-nots. On their own, these articles might easily disappear in a tweet stream. Putting a few together in a little blog post might get at least one more person thinking about these topics and possibly coming up with better ways to fix these broken bits of our society.

Then this article came along: Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, Poverty Thoughts. The writer describes what poverty is to her. She does say these are not all her experiences, but a conglomeration of experiences. The subsequent backlash on Twitter is that “no poor person can write that well”, etc. I guess the idea is that poor people should stay quiet on their patch of cardboard? I did want to know if this was genuine. In my search, I found Erin Kissane and others discussing the reality of povery and sharing links like Being Poor, a 2005 blog post from John Scalzi, and The logic of stupid poor people. Today, when I decided to put these thoughts into a blog post, I discovered an article that calls out the “Poverty Thoughts” essay as false: That Viral “Poverty Thoughts” Essay Is Totally Ridiculous.

I don’t know what is true or what is false, but I do know that having this discussion is important. I read Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed” some years ago and found it quite shocking. When I got back from my overland trip to India and Nepal back in 1978, I looked at all the pictures and their captions in Jacob Holdt’s “American Pictures” and pretty much freaked out. I had seen poverty on my trip and now I was seeing some pretty awful examples in “my own backyard”. What in the world was the meaning of life? Why such disparity? I was able to have a roof over my head and three meals a day, but should I or could I do something about those who couldn’t. This moment really shook up my 20-year-old complacency for about a year or two, but I never did try to start any revolution. Something is wrong with this picture, I thought, but I had no idea how to save the world on my own.

Shortly after the Twitter discussions about poverty, I came across a different type of article that was at the societal level. Cyrus Farivar shared this article on Twitter or Facebook: S.F. tech companies’ civic image at stake as backlash grows, and I found this on my own: In This Silicon Valley Tech Culture and Class War, We’re Fighting About the Wrong Things. Then Cennydd Bowles shared a tweet that led me to this article: Silicon Valley Is Living Inside A Bubble Of Tone-Deaf Arrogance.

I was shocked at the arrogance and the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots. There was also something that reminded me vaguely of distopian, post-apocalytic science fiction movies. Suddenly, it seemed like scriptwriters weren’t making things up, but were looking at what was happening to society today. It was David and Goliath IRL.

There is no conclusion to this blog post. I want to raise awareness about these issues and thought they deserved more than 140 characters. I felt a need to share them in the hope that others out there talk and think about these issues. Maybe one of us will have a constructive idea and a way to carry it out.

One way to start this conversation is showing a lot more respect toward each other. Stop the labels! I’ll close with one more thought-provoking piece – a 2006 blog post from Ted Drake that Jennifer Sutton shared on Twitter. It’s about racial comments, but I think it applies to any of the labels we apply, consciously or subconsiously, throughout our day.

Come on, people. Let’s be nice out there.

My Ignite! slides and transcript for UX Camp CPH 2013

Whew! What an amazing day and a half at the 2013 edition of UX Camp CPH. I contributed 5 minutes to the start of the event. I volunteered to be a part of the team that Ole Gregersen assembled for a mini-Ignite! session on the Friday evening. My 20 slides are posted on Slideshare and at the bottom of this post.

I want to say thank you to those people who came up to me and continued the conversation that I started. It was lovely to meet all of you, and I look forward to hearing more about your ideas and experiences.

Without further ado, I present the script that I used to practice my presentation – 15 seconds for each of the 20 slides. I prepared a script, then made notes as I practised, and finally, I made more tweaks mentally as I gave the presentation. This is my attempt to recreate my spoken words. This gives the gist of what I said and helps you make sense of the text-less slides. You can read all the text on the Slideshare site, but I added a description of the images here for the sake of my blind readers.

The Transcript

  1. Hello, world. You have created a site or an app that you want to share with the world. Is it for the sake of the site or for you? The site is not on its own.
  2. Your site doesn’t exist or live for itself. It lives and works for the people who use it. Thanks to Molly Holzschlag for the inspiration here.
  3. To get at your site, how will I use my visual skills, my hearing skills, my motor skills, and my cognition skills?
  4. Is it perceivable? What if I am blind? Have low-vision? What if I am colorblind? [Image shows a view from the amazing Rainbow Panorama on top of the ARoS art museum in Århus, Denmark.]
  5. Is it operable? How will I navigate if I have repetitive stress injury? Is it keyboard accessible? If I have muslce problems and need to use a mouse, can I use the giant red button instead? [Image from the Yahoo! Accessibility Lab.]
  6. Is it understandable? What if I have dyslexia? What if I am simply tired and stressed? I don’t want a huge block of incomprehensible text in front of me. [Image from the Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent by Dana Chisnell showing the section on writing short sentences.]
  7. Is it robust? Does it move across platforms as I move from platform to platform? Will it be compatible with the platform of tomorrow? [Image is a screenshot of the Twitter web app, which is not portable, and a screenshot of the EasyChirp app, which is.]
  8. This is a great acronym from the Web Accessibility Initiative at the World Wide Web Consortium: P. O. U. R. Perceivable, operable, understandable, robust. This is what you need to remember.
  9. Because it matters. When we meet accessibility barriers, we are like this stranded starfish. We just need a bit of help to get back to where anything is possible. We are all starfish in one way or another. [Image of a starfish that looks like it might be dead because it is partly covered in sand. The note on the photo states that it came back to life when the photographer put it back in the water.]
  10. The World Health Organisation says disability is a universal human experience. We can all experience disability – be it chronic or temporary. We can all use accessibility.
  11. If we begin from Day 1, the cost of change is 1 unit. The cost rises until it reaches 60-100 units after the project is complete. Afterwards is not good. [Image shows a tweet from @Whitneyq: “Cost of change: 1 unit in definition phase, 1.5-6 in dev, 60-100 after release (Pressman, 1992) cited in A bug cost chart is also shown.]
  12. Built-on accessibility is an afterthought and a big problem. Is it even viable? Or is it a new accident waiting to happen? I also lose faith in your product when it looks like this [a really unsafe cement ramp built in the middle of a section of stairs].
  13. I think slapping on accessibility afterwards shows a lack of quality in planning and thinking. Let’s focus on quality. Let’s concentrate on what we are doing and who we’re doing it for.
  14. We need to ask those we are designing for. Shawn Lawton Henry has a great, free book online called “Just Ask”. It has guidance on usability testing with users with disabilities, users with all abilities. That’s a must if we are to integrate accessibility throughout our designs.
  15. Because when we our processes fail to include, consult with, and listen to the people we are actually designing for, we also fail to design effectively. I love Lisa Herrod’s quote, and I love sharing it.
  16. Getting the proper mindset helps. Maybe there is a need for attitude adjustment? There’s a set of cards for that! (From Stamford Interactive in Australia.) We are all in this together – developers, designers, content providers. Let’s grow together.
  17. Playing with cards is one step on the road to teaching about accessibility and implementing accessibility. We need education. We need to build and share our knowledge. We will always be building our skills as platforms and demands change rapidly.
  18. Standards are a part of that education. W3C has guidelines of all kinds. British standards has BS8878, a framework for accessibility. We need a common ideological ground to stand on together.
  19. A lovely example is the accessibility applied to the ubiquitous infographic. Using the right skills, an inaccessible png or jpg can be pure CSS instead [by – a pure CSS version of WebAIM’s Web Accessibility for Designers infographic that is available as image and text].
  20. Using these skills means that we can all participate and enjoy our “hello, world” site. With technology like Braille readers, accessible mobile apps, video calls for deaf people, and so on, we can all benefit from designing for inclusion.[Image shows a young blind boy doing his chemistry homework with Braille reader and computer, two men testing a location-aware app on a mobile, a smiling woman watching an older man signing to a person via a video phone, a blind man using his laptop by listening to a screen reader through his earbuds.
  21. The Slides