Jan 24, 2011

In-Accessible Paradox

Along side my web-geekyness, accessibility has been a major aspect of my approach to the web industry at large. Whenever I come across a "head-turning" graphic or piece of design. I strive to analyze it from different angles, being it context, placement, cultural, social, political, experimental, etc... while emphasizing on braille to good extents.

For instance, having braille on the bottom side of a handrail in public transport stations, public parks and spaces is outstandingly inspiring as it actually serve as the signage system we all take for granted!

Anyway, making a long story short, here is an example that defies the purpose; thanks to my good friend Mary Abi Nader and Wo.man® for sharing the photo.

The braille says "Do Not Touch" and ironically, a visually impaired user may ONLY read, know, or experience that by touching; it could not work any other way!

For a second, I get a mix of emotions, the desire to laugh in tandem with compassion and uncertainty on what would have been the best approach to deliver the message, the right message through the right channel(s). Would an aural solution do the trick?! If you were blind, how would you be most comfortable in "reading" that message or acquiring its instructions?! Do you think a sensor triggered beeping sound upon approach would be an alternative?! That could be my approach... but what if you were blind and deaf?! Why would you choose to leave a portion of your users "get hurt" because you did not think it through properly.

Yes, no, I know it's not the end of the world, you may be saying: "what the heck, it's just a simple signage where nobody will touch... if it were a blind person, tough luck, they're only a few, I have a million friend and none of them is blind... so they can live without having that piece of information!" etc.. maybe not in the exact wording, but I have heard and seen similar behaviors only to feel sad yet more aware!

So... people of design... be aware! You are designing for everybody... don't keep anybody out!


Ricky Onsman said...

Surely the key lies in making the message clearer. What is it that must not be touched? The same would apply to the visual equivalent: "Do not read". Do not read ... what? If it is meant to be "Do not read this sign", then what function is being served? The problem lies in the message being unclear in the first place.

maher berro said...

I absolutely agree Ricky! It's placement in context would give the proper meaning. Unfortunately, I don't know its exact context, yet the first interpretation gave a lot of assumptions.

Ultimately, I guess I can say you caught me red handed (oopsy :P), using it as a justification to remind designers to cater for the masses :)