Who are we trying to serve?

This question comes in a lot of different forms, when people ask questions about how much demand there is for this sort of accessibility.

We live in an age when it’s more possible than ever for ideas and thoughts to be separate from the media in which they are initially presented.  Years ago we had print books, and you might find them in hardcover or paperback. A huge variety.  Now we have hardcover, paperback, ebooks, PDF, audiobooks, and more. Each of those allows people to experience the ideas in the book in a different way — and in some cases may open up the ideas in those books to people who could not take advantage of the other formats.

When we talk about whom accessibility serves, we need to keep a few things in mind.  First of all, there are the three primary types of access problems we make sure we avoid:

  • Can a person who can’t see the content access our ideas?
  • Can a person who can’t hear the content access our ideas?
  • Can a person who can’t operate the content in traditional ways access our ideas?

That last concept — the ability to operate/delivery method — is one we don’t always think about in this context, but it’s just as critical as the others.  After all, a person with motor difficulties might have as much accessing the information in a print book as someone who can’t see the pages.

So, as we select or create content for our classes or other interactions, we need to keep those three people in mind and make sure they can get to our information, our ideas. If not, we may need to think about how to make that happen.

One thing to notice about the way I’ve described those people — a person who can’t see the content, and so on.  That condition may be temporary.

  • A person who is driving a car, for example, can’t actually “see” content while they’re driving, but if that content can be delivered in a way that they can hear, they’re able to access the content and continue their learning while they drive.
  • A person in a loud restaurant may not be able to hear the video streaming to her phone, but if there are captions she can still access them.
  • A person with a sprained wrist who is uncomfortable using a mouse may be able to navigate your document using keyboard commands instead and continue with his learning.

So, keep those three people in mind, and you’ll be on the right track towards developing your content and interactions in accessible ways.

Back to the Accessibility FAQ