Let’s All Make a Small Dent by Promoting Full Accessibility

Last month, high profile developer-focused independent analyst firm RedMonk held its 8th annual ‘Monkigras’ conference in the Plexal innovation centre in Stratford, London, with a theme this year of ‘Accessibility’. Team UKAAF was there too!. Here, the group’s Analyst & Co-Founder James Governor explains why

Monkigras is our annual conference about the social and cultural issues of tech and craft. we’re serious about the ‘craft’ bit, by the way; one of our guiding principles is that we see commonality between software development and other forms of building great things – in many ways building a tech startup and a great microbrewery involve many of the same skills. We don’t see building software as an abstract industrial process, but one that involves the creativity and experience that a craftsperson brings to building an excellent table or pot for us.

Our 2019 Monkigras (we have a Monktoberfest in the Autumn, and the date was near enough to Mardi Gras for us to try and get away with it) was held this year at the end of January, as a 2-day event. And this year, we decided Accessibility needed to be our organising theme.

Why are we focusing on Accessibility? Firstly – it’s so important. We need to do better as a culture, and make fewer assumptions about people’s abilities and needs. Secondly, there is a rising interest in the whole tech sector about an issue that for a number of reasons seems to have been pushed into the background a bit these past few years.

Accessibility is an economic issue, too

Hence the decision to curate a number of presentations and discussions around what ‘Accessible Craft: Creating great experiences for everyone’ might mean in practice. And without a doubt, by the end of the two days I think it’s safe to say most delegates could see the sense in that.

Take wheelchair ramps. They are designed for a particular sort of user, which is great. But having more ramps everywhere actually helps other users; the parent pushing the stroller, the guys moving the photocopier. Putting paving stones that make it easier for visually impaired people to walk the street help the small kid on the trike who now has a better surface to ride on.

The concept that’s coming through in the IT industry of adopting Inclusive (sometimes Universal) Design is one that got a lot of attention at Monkigras, and quite rightly, as it uses just this principle – do things from the start so as to make what you build usable by everyone.

Not all of that is about ergonomics, mind. If you’re a website developer who adds on a fantastic bit of interactive video at the front of your add that looks amazing, but which could drain all of a user’s broadband budget in another part of the world… you’re not really being accessible.

Did we solve all of the genuine Accessibility problems of the world at the two days of Monkigras 2019? Of course not. But I hope we came away convinced that the design philosophy of ensuring everyone can enjoy an experience is the right thing to do. If one attendee takes an action that helps someone with their accessibility needs, then I will take that as a win.

James Governor has been thinking about technology since 1995; follow him on Twitter @monkchips

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