A11y Bytes Canberra – Global Accessibility Awareness Day

by Stevie Green, Experience Designer at Backelite Australia

Australia’s largest community-driven accessibility event was held across the country on the 17th of May, coinciding with Global Accessibility Awareness Day. As the sun set behind Black Mountain in Canberra, we gathered to first get a taste of screen readers, while also tasting a few snacks and beverages. We were then treated to three very different and equally insightful presentations covering aspects of digital accessibility.

“The heart of digital accessibility and inclusion is about people, life and how we live”

Microsoft accessibility guru David Masters began by highlighting the importance of empowering all people. We were encouraged to think differently about what disability is and means. It can be simply phrased as “mismatched human interactions”, and therefore encompasses situations anyone could find themselves in, such as holding a child. He also touched on AI for Accessibility, Microsoft’s five-year programme to accelerate intelligent AI solutions for people with disabilities.

Backelite UX Designer Michelle Tandjung then shared her learnings from conducting user research with vulnerable clients. Her role within the Veteran Centric Reform programme has seen her conduct extensive contextual interviews with Department of Veterans’ Affairs clients, proving the value of not being afraid to engage the user. We heard that it is vital to design all stages of the research process, including recruitment, with the users’ potential vulnerability in mind, and to put in place contingencies should anything be triggered before, during or after the interview. It is also important to take care of yourself as the researcher, plan your time and allow for breaks, and always have a dedicated note-taker so you don’t miss any valuable insights or cues.

The final tale told was from Patrick De Young of the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA). If you haven’t heard of the blueberry muffin analogy, it refers to adding the blueberries into the muffin batter, rather than poking them in after it has been baked. Accessibility is the same, and should be included in the mixture early on. That way, you have a truly delicious muffin, rather than something that might resemble, but ultimately doesn’t live up to, the real thing. Therefore, when the DTA developed their recently beta-released design system, they made each element accessible from the get-go. The system even includes a tool that checks colour contrast and automatically offers alternatives if your colours do not pass WCAG 2.0.

A big thank you to all who attended A11y Bytes 2018 and to everyone who helped make it possible. The community continues to grow in Canberra and all are welcome to contribute.

Find us on Meetup

Join us at the OZeWAI conference – 21-23 November 2018.

The next Global Accessibility Awareness Day will be 16 May 2019.