Folding Accessibility (Meeting Review)

On April 20, 2023, Char James-Tanny, a well-known accessibility advocate for more than 20 years, taught us about “Folding Accessibility into the Documentation Process”. The talk centered on the importance of accessibility, and how it is essential to respect people’s dignity, equality, autonomy, and usability in product documentation.

Accessibility is a fundamental issue that affects everyone, whether temporarily or permanently. James-Tanny highlighted that the largest minority group in the world is people with disabilities, and not acknowledging accessibility means that they may not be able to use your product, read, understand, or navigate your content, and can’t or won’t buy your products. Hence, it is crucial to keep accessibility in mind from the beginning of the product development lifecycle.

There are thousands of disabilities, and mobility issues are the most common type. Each disability has its range, such as vision (full or partial blindness, low vision, color blindness, etc.), hearing (deaf, hard-of-hearing, etc.), and mobility (hands, legs, neck, torso, etc.). Nevertheless, assistive technology (AT) can enhance learning, working, and living for people with disabilities.

We also learned about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which are guidelines that were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) group. It is essential to focus on the principles of the WCAG and not just one disability type. Incorporating accessibility from the beginning of your product lifecycle is crucial because remediation can be difficult and expensive.

James-Tanny encouraged us to attend some of the events on Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on May 19, 2023. GAAD events take place around the world, and most of them are free. By attending these events, people can learn more about accessibility and its importance.

In conclusion, accessibility is not only about doing the right thing; it’s also good for business. By making products and content accessible, businesses can reach a wider audience, improve their user experience, and increase their revenue. Therefore, it’s important to fold accessibility into the documentation process to ensure that everyone can access your content and products with ease.

By Lisa Adair