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When Accessible Content Meets an Inaccessible Interface

This post describes the results of submitting a paper about accessibility to an organization that does not follow best practices for accessibility. We submitted the paper to the Society for Experiential Graphic Design (SEGD), and we also recorded a video for their virtual conference. The links to download the paper and watch the video are listed near the end of this post.

Highlights from our paper

Our paper is:

“Strategies for Incorporating Anti-ableism Into Design Curriculum” by Audra Buck-Coleman, Cheryl Fogle-Hatch, and Robin Marquis.

In this paper, we share reflections about incorporating accessibility into student projects in graphic design classes. Audra Buck-Coleman taught the University of Maryland students who created the exhibit Redefine/ABLE: Challenging Inaccessibility. Robin and I served as consultants on the exhibit answering student questions in class and offering feedback on their content. Naturally, we filled a similar role in writing this paper commenting on Audra’s drafts.

Here are some highlights from this paper.

“disability is caused by the way society is organized and designed. For example, a person is not disabled because they use a wheelchair but rather because the building was not designed with an elevator to give them access to all floors.”

“Recruit collaborators from the disability community to share their experiences and to co-design with students throughout the project. “Nothing about us without us” is the motto of the disability community for good reason. Too many assumptions about their needs and the best ways to meet them have been uninformed, ineffective, and insulting. Invite people who not only have a disability but are also knowledgeable about related issues and are willing to work with those who are not.”

“Design with multi-sensory and duplication in mind. In this case, more is more.”

“Don’t wait for perfection. Communication is key to building trust with people with disabilities. Give audience members a clear idea of how and if they would be able to navigate a space. They then have the autonomy to decide whether they visit or not.”

Another Paper Recommendation

One other paper on accessibility was included in the conference and the journal issue.

“Cripping the Crit: Towards a More Accessible Design Academy” by Gabi Schaffzin.

This paper discusses obstacles that students with disabilities face when taking design classes. I highly recommend it.

Access Limitations

SEGD is not following best practices for accessibility. We discovered this as we were preparing to present our work in their virtual conference in June of 2021.

We felt that it was important for us to model best practices for accessibility by including captions and ASL interpretation in our video presentation. When Audra contacted the event organizers, she learned that they had not made provisions for captions or ASL interpretation. Therefore, we pre-recorded our presentation to include both ASL and captions.

watch our video.

Publication Issues

Given the lack of awareness about accessible videos, I was expecting to find problems with the accessibility of the SEGD journal, Communication + Place.

The pdf that is provided is a single file containing the entire journal issue.

The pdf was recognized as text, so it is readable by screen readers (voice output) software used by people who are blind. However, there are significant problems with the pdf that hinder navigation.

•            Each scanned page includes facing print pages (even and odd). This means that the page numbers in the journal issue do not match the page numbers in the pdf file. It is impossible to navigate directly to a specific page.

•            The document does not have headings at the beginning of each paper so they cannot be easily located.

•            Paper titles are not presented as hyperlinks in the Table of Contents, so titles cannot be activated to go directly to each paper.

It is difficult to navigate this file with a keyboard. I assume that people using a mouse will also find navigation time-consuming because they must scroll through many pages searching for a specific paper.

Citations and Download Link

Here are the full citations for papers mentioned in this post.

Buck-Coleman, Audra, Cheryl Fogle-Hatch, and Robin Marquis.

2021, “Strategies for incorporating anti-ableism into design curriculum” Communication + Place, PP. 130-141.

Schaffzin, Gabi.

2021, “Cripping the Crit: Towards a More Accessible Design Academy”, Communication + Place, pp. 112-119.

Download the journal issue.