Main conference presentation

Blind ambition: How the accessibility movement overlooks sensory experience

Claude Steinberg

Saturday April 12 2008, 4:00 - 4:45PM

How accessible is a sighted person’s experience of using a web site? Would you rather design user experiences than pages and sitemaps? You’ll have a better grasp of user experience when you can translate it into something even a blind person would recognize.

We’ll begin by discussing cases where web sites focused on user experience may be more useful to the public than sites serving as information indices. We’ll examine why visual-tactile experience should sometimes be unpredictable. We’ll then pause to consider what sensory experience has to do with site structure, the traditional concern of IA.

We’ll then discuss shortcomings of traditional notions of accessibility, the user experience of controlling screen reader software and listening to automated speech, and potential rewards of providing more disability-friendly alternatives. We’ll consider currently available alternative technologies and look at controversies surrounding what constitutes an equivalent sensory experience in different sensory modalities. The debate will be illustrated with examples drawn from the audio description of video programs.

Finally, we’ll consider the challenge of designing auditory equivalents for unpredictable experience-oriented web sites. Whether determining what’s clickable or what a button means, gleaning site structure or identifying navigation options, we’ll devise auditory equivalents for interactive eye-hand behavior and concomitant inferencing likely to elicit the same emotional response to the site’s message as that which sighted users experience.

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