Where can one find accessibility expertise

Ask an expert July 2012
Where can one find accessibility expertise

Hello everyone:
Each month I will be responding to a question; chosen from a pool of some of
the most commonly asked ones that I have been asked over the years and
continue to be asked.
This month, I’d like to respond to a question that I am often asked by web
developers, designers, and web masters.
Where can one find accessibility expertise to help in the web
design/development/support cycle?

One would be surprised to learn how close at hand this expertise is and how
available it can be. It’s right here in our backyards; blind and partially
sighted persons themselves. Blind and partially sighted persons are
becoming more involved in website activities and are being used more as
testers, evaluators, and as experts when it comes to deciding how to
implement accessibility features into the design and development of
websites.

For who better than these persons to tell you how best and what is best to
do when it comes to accessibility? They bring lifetime of experiences to
the table. Their knowledge of access technology (software and hardware) is
second to none, and they better than anyone else can guide you on how to
design and develop screens.

They can help you to better understand what combination of foreground and
background colors are needed in order to make the screen more readable to
them. They can help you to learn how their software interacts with
websites; how their software interacts with graphics, icons, images, and
drop-down and pop-up menus.

In order to further clarify this picture, I’d like you to consider the
following.
If you in business to provide products for diabetics, how would you go about
determining measurement of demand? Would you ask a database of non diabetic
consumers for feedback or would you rather ask one that is made up of
diabetics. Chances are that nine out of 10 times you would consult the
latter.

One of the most common pitfalls for companies occurs when they attempt to
use fully sighted expertise to help them design and develop accessibility
features. A sighted person may be able to understand but when it comes down
to the finite points, they will never be able to fully understand what is
needed and why. For how could they? They use their eyes to navigate and
blind and partially sighted persons use their ears to do the same.

In like manner, blind and partially sighted persons are not fully able to
understand how sighted persons use their eyes to navigate and interact with
websites. So the next time you are faced with who can provide you with
accessibility expertise, look no further than the blind and partially
sighted community. All you need to do is to ensure that they are regular
website surfers and that they are regular users of access technology.

I’m Donna J. Jodhan wishing you a terrific weekend.

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