Conference Proposal: We Are All Disabled! Making Web Services Accessible for Everyone

I recently submitted this proposal to LibTechConf 2014 for a full length presentation. I already posted this on github as a gist, but thought I’d post it here. I’m considering revising this for a couple of other conference submissions that are coming up as well, so we’ll see if any of them accept it!


We’re building and improving tools and services all the time, but do you only develop for the “average” user or add things for “disabled” users? We all use “assistive” technology accessing information in a multitude of ways with different platforms, devices, etc. Let’s focus on providing web services that are accessible to everyone without it being onerous or ugly. The aim is to get you thinking about what you can do to make web-based services more accessible for all from the beginning or with small amounts of effort.

Full Description

Despite having policies (and legislation in some cases) around equal opportunity and serving those with disabilities, many of our web services are woefully inaccessible. Many people seem to simply forget, or believe it is too much work. Some people believe that accessible sites cannot be aesthetically pleasing.

The goal of the presentation is to provide both developers and content creators with information on simple, practical ways to make web content and web services more accessible. However, rather than thinking about putting in extra effort or making adjustment for those with disabilities, I want to help people think about how to make their websites more accessible for all users through universal web design.

Beginning with an overview of accessibility and universal web design, the presentation will cover how different considerations (e.g. physical, environmental) are needed at all levels of the development cycle and how various trends in web (e.g. mobile first, progressive enhancement, content strategy) fit together to build a model for universal web design.

This is a rather new way in getting people to think about web accessibility, which is not well published, especially in library or education literature. Most articles or presentations seem to focus on simple or quick fixes to help those with disabilities (which admittedly includes some of my own), so I want to help shift our thinking from “making concessions for those with disabilities” to “how to help all our potential users”.

Apologies if it seems slightly vague or abstract at the moment, while this is not a completely new concept and I am a big supporter of universal design, as I mentioned, there is very little existing literature so I am still in the process of flushing out my ideas.

Author: Cynthia

Technologist, Librarian, Metadata and Technical Services expert, Educator, Mentor, Web Developer, UXer, Accessibility Advocate, Documentarian

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