Executive leaders, Project managers, and Client representatives

The Design Strategy

The Accessibility Design Challenge

The accessibility challenge is the deficit gap between the user abilities and the system capabilities; and The goal is to bridge the accessibility gap, through inclusive design, that will create the best possible end-user experience. That is, accessibility is a measurement of productivity, and productivity defines usability. Usability is concerned with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction of the end-user through multiple means of representation, multiple means of expression, and multiple means of engagement. So, design is the bridge between information access and knowledgeable understanding, built upon three pillars; Performance, Security, and Accessibility. If you do not understand the information then it is just noise, and if any one of the pillars is weak then people are put at risk. That is, cognitive considerations for visualization and the information interface design, are important for making products and services accessible and usable. The bridge design must consider the physical and cognitive characteristics of people with a holistic user interface that incorporates vision, audio, and touch, so as to close the gap of inclusion. Community and belonging are emergent values, they emerge when we get the other things right.

The digital economy is driving economic prosperity through increased productivity and market growth, but the ability to use new emerging technologies is currently at the heart of social inclusion, with those excluded being left out of many work, entertainment, communication, healthcare and social benefits. In recent years, there has been an important paradigm shift affecting the development of new legislation and policies concerning persons with disabilities; from segregation to integration, from institutionalization to mainstreaming, and from the medical model of disability being viewed as a condition to be treated, to the social model of disability focusing on the removal of disabling barriers in the environment that hinder full participation in society. The design of products and services must bridge these gaps by removing the inclusion barriers through a business strategy of interoperability.

The Accessibility Gap, also known as The Digital Divide, are the design flaws that prevent people from making informed decisions and from actively participating in society. That is, access to and usage of information communication technologies depends on an inclusive design strategy to achieve a good user experience. A wall with no window prevents you from looking outside, and a highway with no on ramp prevents you from getting to your destination. A wall with windows far above your head is not usable, and a highway with an on ramp but full of pot holes is not user friendly. The usage of information is as important to the end-user, as is access to the information. Understanding those barriers that create a gap in the user experience, and marginalize specific groups of people, is key to a good design strategy. Good design is the first step in bridging the accessibility gap, but an essential partnership with development and testing is required to achieve the desired user experience. The internet offers an opportunity for organizations to close the digital divide. Internet technologies have the potential to give persons with disabilities the means to live on a more equitable basis within the global community in a manner that previously was not possible. The Internet Society Paper released November 2012, offers policymakers guidance on both why and how to increase use of the Internet by persons with disabilities. the scope of the paper outlines issues surrounding accessibility, availability and affordability. The Internet use by persons with disabilities: Moving Forward paper explores both the business case and the human rights perspective for improved accessibility to the Internet for persons with disabilities.

Key Business Goals

The first step in the design of products and services is an enterprise understanding of the business strategic goals:
  1. Reach new markets
  2. Maximize employee engagement and productivity
  3. Provision high quality products and services
  4. Improve supply chain management
  5. Build partner and community relations
  6. Minimize risk of legal action
Accessible Information and Communication Technologies Benefits to Business and Society Report: by the OneVoice Coalition, March 2010

To achieve these business goals the organization accessibility design strategy must consider:

  • Productivity that enables employees to be productive and satisfied,
  • Inclusion that integrates people, processes, and tools, and
  • Communications that informs people, builds knowledge, and creates confidence.
When organizations integrate User Experience Design into their work environments, the need for employees to request individual accommodations through a separate process is reduced, which creates a more similar and equitable experience for everyone. Investing in accessible and usable technology products and services, workplace environments and facilities opens up new markets, increases productivity and liberates talent, and enables innovation. The message that "providing accessible and usable technologies to all is fundamental to the organisation's core business objectives" must come from the top of the organisation. Accessibility no longer means compliance. It has become a mainstream requirement that can transform the business. Therefore every part of the organisation should be involved in creating a holistic strategy for embedding accessibility across the entire enterprise.

Accessibility Design Model

The digital revolution has imposed unprecedented pressures upon organizations, and has disrupted the traditional management model. The struggle for competitive advantage has forced organizations to respond to the rapid changes in both technology innovation and human rights demands. This paradigm shift in global trends is having a profound impact on workplace productivity and organization infrastructure stability. Business leaders that do not understand the digital transformation are at risk of alienating groups of employees and consumers. Accessibility is about breaking down barriers of "cultural arrogance" and "systemic blindness". Bridging the digital divide is about closing the gap between leadership understanding of Accessibility, and management implementation of Accessibility. We all have accessibility issues to some degree, but is only a major problem when the design fails your need. That is, design is all around us, but for the most part, the design reflects the perception of the designer, which may not consider your individual need.
Ryerson University's $112-million Student Learning Centre poses safety risks for people with disabilities - YouTube
Accessibility Problems at New Toronto Area Public Transit Stations - YouTube

There are many different design models, and the appropriate model will depend upon the organization's culture.

The adopted design model must include the interoperability of
    the three pillars
  • Performance:
    A stable, consistent, and fast access.
  • Security:
    A safe, risk free, and high quality delivery access.
  • Accessibility:
    A fully inclusive, easy to use, and productive access.
    and the three accessibility feature structures
  • Transparent Interfaces:
    A blend of voice, body, and object positioning capabilities making it possible for users to interact more intuitively through devices with information services (adapting systems to user behavior, instead of adapting user behavior to systems).
  • Ubiquitous Access:
    Ubiquitous access represents the ability for a cloud service to be widely accessible, support a range of devices, and provide an "always on" connection to the internet (cloud service architecture is tailored to the particular user preferences).
  • Adaptive levels of Engagement:
    Contextual capabilities will engage data feeds to user preferences, location and activities, extending beyond the tapping of icons under glass (include human sensory systems that transfer information to knowledge: vision, hearing, tactile).

The design model, through the interoperability strategy, must remove social and economic barriers to bridge the accessibility gap, for a successful inclusive end-user experience.

  • From accessibility to usability (Design standards and user testing):
    Curb cuts provide accessibility, but the slope grade and texture will determine the level of usability. Automatic door openers will provide accessibility, but the location of the button or remote control will determine the level of usability.
  • From information to knowledge (Message delivery and bias attitudes):
    GPS will provide location information, but the mode of delivery will determine the level of user understanding. Internet websites will provide information, but the mode of presentation and content format will determine the level of user understanding.
  • From chaos to stability (Collaborative processes and top down innovation):
    Standard processes and tools will provide accessible opportunities, but the usability will determine the level of productivity and satisfaction. The regulatory laws and best practices will provide stability, but the cultural attitudes will determine the level of collaboration and expected behaviours.
  • From passive to active (Inclusive dialogs and active participation):
    Open and transparent policies will provide accountability, but the mode of engagement will determine the level of inclusion. Accessibility design and testing will provide conformance criterias, but the involvement of end-users will determine the level of business success and market growth.


The Design Tasks

Seamless Integration

The seamless merging of people and machines is transforming the way we look at innovation and design. The Artificial intelligence (AI) revolution is well underway, and recent significant milestones show that AI can improve the lives of people with disabilities. In early 2016 Facebook released its groundbreaking automatic alternative text feature that describes images to blind and visually impaired people, Apple implemented facial recognition as the new way to unlock the next generation of iPhones, and Google launched its Neural Machine Translation (GNMT) system, which removes the language barriers by automatically translating web content. It is estimated that more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet Of Things (IOT) by 2020. IOT is changing the whole way we think about the division between the virtual and the physical, and the Programmable World is automating activities we normally do by hand and putting intelligence from the cloud into everything we touch. Currently, over a billion people including children (or about 15% of the world's population) are estimated to be living with disability. The lack of support services can make disabled people overly dependent on their families, which prevents them from being economically active and socially included. The Internet of Things can offer people with disabilities the assistance and support they need to achieve a good quality of life and allows them to participate in the social and economic life. Accessible, usable and inclusive digital communications will link virtual and real life experiences to achieve greater levels of productivity and satisfaction.

More importantly consumers are demanding a better user experience. Do not risk your business success by ignoring societal trends. Technology is changing the way we interact, and smarter consumers will favour those organizations that adopt a user centred design strategy. Users desire flexibility that allows a wide diversity of user devices, and a responsive interface that customizes the style and format for their environment. The idea of creating accessible and flexible workplaces is a common theme among digital strategists. Emerging technologies, such as desktop virtualization and cloud software, enable Canadians to work remotely in secure and accessible ways. many Canadians are choosing remote work to avoid traffic, reduce travel expenses, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and to increase productivity. Accessibility solutions benefit people with and without disabilities and are becoming increasingly available in standard computer hardware, mobile devices, operating systems, web browsers, and other tools. For instance, some people do not use a mouse, keyboard, or both, while others use specific configurations for keyboard and mouse, or use alternative hardware or software altogether. Supporting an effective usage web experience for all people, requires more than just accessible Web content. You must understand how people interact with the web, and the accessibility solutions that best accommodates their particular needs.

The Design Strategy

The design model must be built upon an interoperability strategy that maximizes collaboration and innovation throughout the entire project life cycle. That is, during the design phase it is important to clearly define a baseline of expectations for development, testing, implementation, and support. Developers must be aware of coding standards, user agent interfaces, adaptive engagement techniques, and legal obligations. Developing with an accessibility strategy that includes performance and security requirements, will remove the barriers of individual accommodation needs and costly support. Evaluating the accessibility of web content for people with disabilities requires diverse kinds of expertise and perspectives. Comprehensive and effective evaluations require evaluators with an understanding of Web technologies, evaluation tools, barriers that people with disabilities experience, assistive technologies and approaches that people with disabilities use, and accessibility guidelines and techniques.

Design Baseline

  1. Define the standards and conformance guidelines to be used (IE. WCAG A, AA, AAA).
  2. Define Accessibility laws and regulatory requirements that must be considered (IE. Ontario AODA or U.S. Section508 standards).
  3. Define Web Technologies Relied Upon (IE. HTML, CSS, ARIA, and auxiliary web technologies like JavaScript, SMIL, SVG and PDF).
  4. Define evaluation tasks (IE. both Functional and Usability).
  5. Define a baseline of web technologies (IE. User agents and system platforms).
  6. Define testing methodology (IE. Tools, expertese, user groups, and error reporting).
  7. Define test procedures (IE. Persona scripts, specific web pages, specific functions, and focus groups).
  8. Define end-user performance metrics (IE. Effectiveness, efficiencies, and satisfaction).
  9. Define reporting style and formats (IE. Document, videos, and training).
  10. Define the delivery process (IE. Executive presentation, management conference, and developer workshop).