No Accessibility, no UX

No accessibility no UX (C) P. Bertini

No accessibility no UX (C) P. Bertini

Who are the users that User Experience professionals refer to when designing the ultimate digital experience?

They have many ways to describe the user: persona are a generally widely used method to bring users alive and create stereotypes of users. But stereotypes always lack detail and the core of UX is the ability to deliver details and experiences to all user, even those not captured by persona.

I cannot remember seeing a persona of a disabled user ever, but I may just have been unlucky.

However, the issue here is not Persona.

The key issue is that too many UX professionals do UX but do not practice accessibility. These two skills are often naturally considered distinct skill set, different domains of UX, and often managed by different people, where one is the Accessibility expert, the other the UX expert, with a help from the designers and consultants.

Accessibility is often seen as a specialised or complementary skill set of UX and this generates an interesting paradox: How can UX design an experience for the users if there are barriers to access the experience itself? It’s like what architects would do, if they built an innovative and original building, but designed a door which fit only the average person that is meant to access the building: a 178 cms height, for max 85 kg. Anyone taller or fatter, would have to do their best to enter – and hope that any doors inside the building will be of appropriate size.

The crude fact is that there is no user experience with no accessibility: access is the essential pre-requisite to any digital experience and not an added value.

Somehow UX evolved after accessibility but it has forgotten to lay its foundations on accessibility and instead it decided to evolve parallel and tangent, but not intertwined as it would be natural. But both UX and accessibility (if we really want to call it that old fashioned way) are mature enough to merge and benefit from a constructive union and active cooperation.

I recently have heard people complaining that accessibility is a cost, which is a 15 years old mantra: accessibility should not be an additional cost, but a natural integrated part of any UX initiative. Accessibility is NOT an added value, but the essential prerequisite to create user experiences for anyone, regardless their height, weight, access devices, connection, language, contingent situation, needs and wills.

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2 Comments to “No Accessibility, no UX”

  1. I wholeheartedly agree Pat…

    Accessibility and UX are parts of a whole. I have gone to great lengths to promote the concept of IUX (Inclusive User Experience) and ensure that we consider the needs of all when creating products and services.

    There are some personas of people with disabilities out there. The Helen Hamlyn Centre developed some as did Cambridge University.

    • The biggest problem with Persona is that they are built for specific scopes and projects and I am among those who believes that their value is mostly in the generation process [http://www.uie.com/brainsparks/2008/01/24/personas-are-not-a-document/].

      I am not sure that IUX Vs UX is helpful: UX should be inclusive by definition, otherwise, call it CX, where the focus is the specific marketing target rather than the user. We all are users, not everyone is a Customer.
      But yes, the point is the same… how we get there… we’ll find it out together 🙂

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