Christian Heilmann

Needs of the disabled spark inventions – why not in web design?

I just created a presentation for a Tech Talk later on with the topic “Accessibility and You, a non-tech approach to web accessibility” and during the collection of material I realized that a lot of real world inventions were based on the needs of disabled people and are now benefitting everybody.

These are just some examples, and I’ll be happy to add more (comment please) were a disability became the spark that started a new invention.

However, when you look at any web design list or forum these days, all you hear is “I need to add skip links” or “I need to make this accessible” or “how can I make this work with screen readers?”. Where is the spark there? How come not many people see accessibility as a chance to improve a current product or use it as a test phase to give the product a trial by fire before considering it worthy of publication?

During a summit last month in Germany Markus Erle talked about accessibility testing as an incubator to make products more stable, mature and ready for the real world and not as a means to create a habitat for handicapped users.

This inclusive approach is not new, in fact Wendy Chisholm’s article Innovative Design Inspired by Accessibility on Digital Web covered it already in 2005, but I don’t see it being followed or getting as much time in the limelight as the old “so what do we have to do to accommodate disabled users”?

Thanks to Tomas Caspers and Mike Davies