A conversation with Bram Duvigneau about screen readers

On the 16th of November 2018 Bram Duvigneau joined us at the Design Research Master at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. Bram and I had an open conversation for a small audience of web accessibility experts, fellow students, lecturers and other people who were interested. In our conversation we explored the difference between expert screen reader users, and regular people who use a computer every now and then and who depend on a screen reader. I thought this would turn into a small summary, but alas, it is 1250 words long. If you know Dutch, you can find the transcript and the video of the conversation here. 

Transcriptie en video van het gesprek tussen Bram Duvigneau en Vasilis van Gemert

Op 16 november heb ik een openbaar gesprek gevoerd met Bram Duvigneau op de Willem de Kooning-academie in Rotterdam. Bram is een absolute expert op het gebied van web toegankelijkheid, en een absolute expert op het gebied van screen readers. Tijdens mijn master-onderoek kwam ik er achter dat veel van de best practices die we gebruiken binnen de webtoegankelijkheid niet per sé prettig te gebruiken zijn voor mensen die een screen reader gebruiken. De problemen doen zich met name voor bij mensen die géén expert zijn. Met andere woorden, normale mensen, geen computer experts, geen nerds, die een screen reader nodig hebben om hun computer te gebruiken. Met Bram belichten we deze observatie van een aantal verschillende kanten. Maar Bram begint allereerst met een demo van wat een screen reader nu precies is. 

Visual tab interaction

Recently I asked my students to design and build a user interface that’s a pleasure to use for real people with real disabilities. They designed an interface that worked either for Larissa who is blind, for Marie who is Deaf, or for Marijn who is motor disabled. My students had two sessions with Marie and Larissa. In the first one they met each other, and they were able to ask questions about how they use the web. They observed how they use their computer and talked about the hurdles they faced. In the second session they tested the interfaces my students designed. Unfortunately I did not manage to organise such a session with Marijn. 

A comparison of three pyramids

The last six months I’ve been wondering what a pleasurable user experience would be for people with disabilites. After doing a little but of research I came to the conclusion that a pleasurable experience for people who are blind would be an unacceptable experience for me. I did some research into what a makes a user experience pleasurable. One of the books I read about this subject is Designing for Emotion by Aarron Walter. 

The hierarchy of senses

Butterfly Works, a social innovation studio, invited me to organise part of a workshop for their clients and friends. I did a very quick version of the exclusive design challenge I organised a while ago. This time there were three teams, and they had just half an hour to come up with ideas with the material I gave them. After that they took their first ideas and moved over to Kim van den Berg who gave the teams a very quick workshop in visualising ideas by drawing. 

Can Exclusive Design make the web more accessible?

Theoretically the web is in itself accessible for people with disabilities. The theory is wonderful. Yet in practice we’re not there yet.