“I think the most important thing for changing people’s hearts and minds about accessibility is to remind them that accessibility isn’t just for ‘someone else’… it’s about them” Dylan
UX Designer at D.R. Fox Design (independent consulting)
Years of Experience in Tech: 7-9 years
Level of Expertise(Accessibility): Intermediate
I don’t have a traditional path into accessibility. I started out with a mechanical engineering degree from UC Berkeley, and after realizing that thermodynamics wasn’t as fun as it was cracked up to be, I grew interested in cognitive engineering instead. I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of how people think and use various tools, and how we can use that knowledge to create better tools for people. I started with a very functional, rather than aesthetic, approach towards design, and eventually came to realize that designing around user needs also meant designing around user capabilities. After all, if a user is physically unable to use your application, you can’t say it’s very well designed! I earned my master’s degree in Information Management and Systems from Berkeley as well, researching how to use the Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality system as a tool to support visually impaired people.
I am currently a UX Design and Research consultant in Oakland, California, working on virtual, augmented, and mixed reality (XR). I lead the Application Accessibility Group at XR Access, where we are trying to bring different people from industry and academia to the table to create an accessible future for XR.
How do you change people’s minds and hearts about accessibility?
Accessibility isn’t just for somebody else… it is for all of us!
The most important thing when it comes to changing people’s hearts and minds, is to remind them that accessibility isn’t just for somebody else – some unknown person in a wheelchair you don’t know and you don’t have to think about. Accessibility is about them and their family and friends being able to use technology. It’s about their grandparent being able to order medicine even when their eyesight is worsening. It’s about their kid being able to do homework even when their arm is in a cast after they broke it at soccer practice. It’s about them themselves being able to watch Netflix with captions at the end of a long day because they don’t want to wake their partner. So accessibility isn’t for somebody else, it’s for all of us!
What advice would you give others who are thinking about getting involved in digital accessibility?
Just do it!
I would say to anybody who is thinking about becoming involved with digital accessibility: Just do it! At the bare minimum, it is going to make you a better designer. Accessibility should really be part of every design development curriculum; even if it is not the primary focus of your role it definitely won’t hurt to learn. I guarantee it!
What is one thing someone can go do today, to learn about accessibility, in their lives?
Go on your phone right now and try turning on a screen reader like voiceover or talkback.
Now go and try to use your favorite apps and see if you can do it without your eyes. Try getting familiar with the accessibility features that are already on your phone and computer. Understanding how people are going to be interpreting and experiencing those applications will immediately help you design for accessibility.
Want to learn more about the ways to bake accessibility into your design process? Dylan touches on those hot topics as well as his experience with XR. Watch the entire interview or read video transcriptions below!
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