A Semester of Usability and Accessibility Work (Blog 6)

It’s hard to believe an entire semester has passed. Looking back over my posts throughout the semester, I do see several themes that I was thinking of throughout the semester.

Experiments in Coding for Accessibility

I enjoyed the coding activities, which allowed me to put accessibility into practice. However, some of the more technical elements of the course were a definite challenge, particularly ARIA and interpreting some of the accessibility test results. Overall, though, the technical aspects of the course were a good experience.

How Can Librarians Keep Up?

This was one of my primary concerns when studying accessibility and usability. In order to truly keep accessibility in mind, we need to have a deep understanding of different issues, so that we can rely on our own analysis and not just blindly trusting the results from an accessibility tool. But when the field takes time and commitment to learn and then changes rapidly, how can a librarian keep up? If full-time web developers often fail to keep up or include accessibility, what resources can we provide for librarians to do any differently? Also, how can they implement accessibility solutions when so much of their website is out of their control?

Spoiler alert: I don’t have an answer for this. I’m not a web developer. Once I’m a librarian (knock on wood), will I have the time, resources, tool, and/or support to continue learning, in the face of all the different development demands librarians face? I hope so. I intend to try.

I reread ‘If not us, than who?‘ from American Libraries, and I still really agree with Farkas (2015). While I understand that much of accessibility of resources is out of library control, we also can’t adopt a victim mentality and assume nothing can be changed. Libraries need to start advocating more strongly for more usable, accessible, and private resources.

Design Thinking was There All Along

While rereading my blog posts, another thing I was reminded of is that it is sometimes easier to identify problems than design solutions. In our group work, we often could agree on an issue with a site. But, we often advocated for different solutions. Without further development and testing, it is hard to determine whether a solution is really more accessible and usable.

I’ve been reading more about design thinking recently, for my management class and a potential upcoming project. And I realized that design thinking is a natural part of this process. In fact, in A Web for Everyone, Horton and Quesenbery (2014) talk about design thinking in their first chapter (something that did not stand out to me on the first reading).

However, what I’ve learned from my design thinking readings elsewhere is that it might be okay that we don’t have solutions immediately, that trying to jump immediately to solutions might actually mean we fail to consider the problem most fully. The first stages of design thinking emphasizes dedicating more time understanding users, empathizing with users, and trying to fully identify problems. Usability testing is a natural fit for design thinking, as we observe firsthand the blocks users run into, how they feel about using a site, and also what they do not see or do.

We may not have all the answers, but we have a good idea of the challenges users face and can design more fully for all users.

Originally posted on St. Kate MLIS WordPress.

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