It’s been a long time since I did a workshop outside of a conference-scope. So last week felt a bit new to me, as I participated in an Inclusive Design workshop given by Peter van Grieken.
The workshop was organized by Fronteers - a branch organisation for frontend developers. I’ve been a member of them for a while now, and I used to visit their excellend frontend conference each year. But being that my function in my previous company Chef du Web was mostly focussed on WordPress development, for the last couple of years I didn’t really bother trying to get into the conference or participate in the workshops it provides. Now that I’m heading out on my own I want to change that, which is why I decided to participate.
Inclusiveness & Accessibility
The workshop was about being as accessible and inclusive to everybody as possible. It really focussed more on “mindset” then quick wins and technical tricks you could just google. I mean; it gave some practical examples, but mainly started by expanding (at least my) views on accessibility.
You see, the general consensus in accessibility is mostly that we need to make websites that work well on screenreaders. And while that’s true, it’s excluding a huge part of the population who might have other fysical or mental disabilities. Hearing a lot of examples on this really expanded my understanding of accessibility, which I though was very cool. After lunch Marnix, a partially blind guy, joined us to show us how he handles stuff on the web. We learned that internet giants like bol.com and coolblue still aren’t very accessible.
Why that matters
Well, why should that matter? Other than for moral reasons? Is there a reason to switch to inclusive design? Ehm… yeah. There is. First of all it’s currently illegal to exclude people from your service or product based on fysical or mental disabilities. That law was passed last year and is in line with european legislation. There won’t be razzia’s if you’re not complying with this law at the moment, but especially big companies are prone to be sued or fined. The other end of the argument is purely economical: if you count up people with a disabbility, with bad reading skills, with mental problems, with color blindness and other issues, you get a number of 4 million in the Netherlands (a country of 16 million people). That’s 25% of possible customers you’re ignoring. Across borders the percentage seems to be the same, by the way.
Obviously the main reason for switching to inclusive design is and ought to be; because you are a good person.
Halfway through the workshop we where given different persona’s and the assignment to work out a car-pooling webapp. Most of the time we worked in teams of three or four to solve this issue on paper. The last couple of hours we also got our hands dirty with some code. Together with Tim Severien I build a little filter-app that works well on screenreaders, mobile and is easily readable for people with color-blindness and bad eyes.
I need to learn a lot more about the practicalities and, if I’m working on an assignment, I need to prototype a lot more and for more target audiences. All in all I’ve expanded the scope of my understandind of accessibility. What I’d like to do now is follow a workshop on how to convince clients that investing in A11y matters :)
One thing I’d also like to mention is that I learned the word Neurodiversity. And as a parent of an autistic kid, I just have to say that I really love that word :) <3