The velvet rope: Northern UX

Posted on Wednesday, 16 November 2016 by Henny Swan

Probably a highlight of conference talks this year was giving the closing keynote at Northern UX in Manchester, UK. I spoke about ‘The velvet rope’ — being tantalizingly close to accessing a website or application but somehow barred entry. As the synopsis for the talk says:

There is little use in compliance with accessibility standards if your audience is unable to use your product. If a form is technically compliant is it accessible if a keyboard-only user takes three times longer than a mouse user to submit it? What is the point of primary links tidied away behind a menu if the menu icon is unfamiliar and difficult to understand?

Accessibility is not just about meeting the standards. It’s not just a developer’s sport. Or an exercise in quality assurance. It’s about equivalent user experience for people with different abilities. How we get there can be as innovative and creative as you want as long as the principles of accessible user experience are honoured.

As the idea makers, the innovators, the artists and the thinkers, accessibility starts with you. In this talk I will share real stories from the types of people who are using your products and how you can make their everyday accessible.

Below are my slides followed by a video of the talk.

A video of the talk, with closed captions is also available:

About Henny Swan

Henny Swan is Director of User Experience at The Paciello Group. Prior to TPG she worked at the BBC where she was lead author on the BBC Mobile Accessibility Standards and Guidelines, UX lead for accessibility and looked after BBC iPlayer, the BBC Standard Media Player, the 2012 Olympics, Weather and Sport. Henny has also worked as a Web Evangelist in the Developer Relations team at Opera Software ASA, and as a Senior Accessibility Consultant at the Royal National Institute of Blind People in the UK where she set up the RNIB Web Access Centre. Henny has been involved with Web Standards and accessibility since 2001, actively participating in W3C initiatives such as the Web Accessibility Initiative Education and Outreach Working Group, the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines Working Group, and the Mobile Accessibility Task Force. She is also a former lead of the International Liaison Group within the Web Standards Project (WaSP).


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