Developing a Manifesto for Accessible UX

Last month, a few TPGi folks attended the UXPA 2014 conference in an astonishingly hot and sunny London. As well as meeting with friends and colleagues old and new, and having some great discussions about our future work plans, Sarah Horton, Léonie Watson and I also ran a conference workshop on Developing a Manifesto for Accessible User Experience.

We’ve observed the use of manifestos as rallying points for other emerging philosophies in the field of digital design and development. As we try to move thinking of accessibility from technical checkpoint testing towards a mature approach of full integration into UX activity, we thought it might be a helpful exercise to develop a small set of common statements and beliefs that UX professionals can use to describe what we mean by Accessible UX. This manifesto could become a simple tool to help us develop a mutual understanding of what we’re trying to achieve, to help organisations integrate accessibility into practice and create genuinely inclusive high-quality digital experiences for everyone, regardless of disability or age.

We wanted to get some input from our colleagues in the UX field, including experienced accessibility specialists, UX professionals with a strong interest in accessibility, and people keen to learn more about how to better integrate accessibility into their UX activity.

So we facilitated what we found to be an intense and demanding—but ultimately productive—3-hour session, where we looked at three topic areas:

  1. Sharing the challenges we currently face in effectively integrating accessibility into user experience activity. This helped us to collectively understand the breadth and nature of the barriers that we face in trying to broaden awareness, understanding and responsibility for designing more accessible user experiences.
  2. Sharing an understanding and appreciation of the definition, purpose and aims of a manifesto in describing, supporting and advancing a new practice or approach. We discussed what people understand by a “manifesto”, and existing manifestos that might inform our thinking. Examples we considered included the Manifesto for Agile Software Development , the  Lean UX Manifesto, and the UK Government Data Services (GDS) Design Principles.
  3. Developing an initial version of a Manifesto for Accessible UX. This was the really hard part and, while we made some progress, we still have a lot of work to do! We identified three categories, respectively covering where we are now, where we want to be, and how we’ll get there, and created a set of position statements for each.

We’re now in the process of refining these statements and shaping them into a meaningful first draft, with the help of the workshop participants. After this, we need to understand how the Manifesto can be of most use to accessible UX advocates, but more importantly, for organisations to use as a reference point in their work.

We’ll be sure to update you on our progress. In the meantime, we’d like to thank all the workshop participants for their contributions so far.

Update (22 August): Our workshop slides are now available on Slideshare.

The Manifesto for Accessible User Experience is available online to read and refer to, and for you to use in whatever way best helps you adopt an inclusive approach to UX.

Categories: Development, User Experience (UX)

About David Sloan

David Sloan is a Principal Accessibility Engineer and Strategy and Research Lead at TPGi. He joined the company in 2013, after nearly 14 years as an accessibility researcher, consultant and instructor at the University of Dundee in Scotland.