Part of a Whole

My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

Listen to the A11y Rules Podcast.

Conversation with Denis Boudreau

Accessibility rules podcast

Denis Boudreau works for Deque Systems. He has been working in accessibility for nearly 2 decades, doing mostly consulting, training and strategy.

You can listen to Part 1 and Part 2 of the interview with Denis, or read the transcript.

Accessibility and checklists

Denis had told me he doesn’t like to think about accessibility in terms of checklists. I asked him how he feels about that now.

Like most people, I started in accessibility, and accessibility started making sense to me by following checklists. That was the only way I could wrap my head around it. But what I have come to realize is that when you lean heavily on those checklists, you miss a lot of things. So, over the years I’ve come to integrate what those checklists are, and I still have that in mind as I assess a website for instance, but I really think about it in terms of user experience now, as opposed to just checklists.

Accessibility and UI/UX

On the separation line between accessibility and UI/UX

if you had asked me that question five years ago, I would have had a very different answer I guess. Now, I look at accessibility as a subset of UX, a subset of usability. I don’t see it as a different practice at all, I see it as a simple … it’s very connected to user interface design, or user experience design. It’s just from a different perspective. It’s a more narrowed focus, I would say.

If you look at UX, for instance, the goal of a UX designer will be to make sure the experience that he or she creates will work well with the intended audience. That they will get satisfaction and pleasure from using that interface. In accessibility, we do the same thing, but our focus is not so much on this particular type of user, but rather users that happen to have a disability or users that happen to be older, and may struggle with content, or users that may be marginalized by technology, one way or another.

That’s where our focus is, but we usually want the same things, which is to create an experience that is satisfying for users.

Accessibility isn’t a technical thing

People think still today that accessibility is really about people who are blind, so that’s something that we often have to adjust in people’s understandings. There’s a tendency to think that accessibility is a very technical thing as well, while in reality it’s not that technical. Like, people will think that the person who needs to take care of accessibility is your developer or maybe even your QA person. Again, thinking about accessibility from the perspective of different roles, you try to help them understand that everyone has a role to play.