One of my coworkers came back from a tech conference and shared a story about designer Rafaella Isidori's talk on the "7 Pillars of Design." After exploring these pillars—which touched on themes like dominance, equilibrium, and space—someone in the audience asked whether "accessibility" was the eighth pillar of design.
While chatting about the talk, my coworker said the topic of accessibility seems like a trend. What does "accessibility" have to do with the "7 pillars of design?" Why bring it up in what seems like an unrelated arena? Our industry is full of trendy topics. Is accessibility the latest buzzword?
As someone who recently gave two talks on the theme of accessibility, I agree: accessibility is trendy.
It's a good thing.
Accessibility is trendy because accessibility is more accessible than ever before. As human-centered designers, our obligation is to start with human needs and desires, and find a way to meet those needs at the intersection of business and technology.
Trendiness means that our community is adopting the mindsets of inclusive design: that designing for those with permanent mental or physical disabilities has a ripple effect that improves the experience for a broad spectrum of individual needs and abilities that may not only be permanent, but temporary, or even situational. It's getting easier to make the business case for accessibility.
Trendiness means that we're less willing to be forgiving when companies make a business decision to exclude people with disabilities. Game publisher Toys for Bob chose to omit subtitles from their remastered Spyro game, and the online backlash shows that from a business perspective, accessibility can enrich—or damage—brand perception.
Regarding the glaring lack of subtitles in the Spyro collection - huge publisher @Activision and @ToysForBob (of Skylanders fame) are basically saying "we evaluated whether it was worth the cost and effort to keep Deaf and HH players happy, and we decided that it wasn't" pic.twitter.com/7JgSWh45hh— Brad Gallaway (@bradgallaway) November 18, 2018
Trendiness means that our tools, platforms, and technology are working together to make it easier, faster, and cheaper to design and build accessible experiences. Something as simple as subtitles for online videos, which used to be expensive, time consuming, and difficult to implement, are affordable, quick, and almost effortless to include.
We still run into situations where someone has to make a conscious decision to not peruse a path or direction that would lead to better accessibility outcomes. Not every meetup can provide real-time transcriptions of talks and presentations. Even as someone who would benefit from this kind of access, it’s an understandable outcome of business and technological realities. Realities can be exclusive.
But the gap between infeasible and feasible is closing.
Business and technological realities are making it easier to bridge human needs within our products and experiences.
Accessibility, today, is trendy.
That’s a good thing.
Because accessibility, tomorrow, will no longer be trendy.
It’ll be the norm.