On hearing and accessibility

There are a lot of things that I take for granted that I shouldn’t and I’m sorry to say that the ability to hear is pretty high up on that list. David Peter‘s piece on Model View Culture brought me to this realisation and it’s something I’d encourage anyone to read.

Accessibility matters. A lot. And it’s something that I’ve actively been trying to get better at for a while now. I check colour schemes for compatibility with different types of colour blindness, make sure colour contrast ratio’s are up to par and that text is big enough to be legible et cetera. The problem (for want of a better word) with all of those tests though is that they only cater to varying degrees of blindness. None of them improve whatever it is I’m working on for deaf or hard of hearing people. Sure, as a UI designer I don’t come into contact with much video or audio work but I’ll admit that, until recently, improving accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing people in my work is something I’d barely even considered which is just wrong.

From David’s article:

Fixing culture starts with small steps. Make accessibility a priority—part of your product cycle. Assume people with disabilities will be present at your events and accommodate us with captionists. Tear out ableism from our language, eliminating idioms like “falling on deaf ears” that equate deafness with ignorance. Recognize communication friction exists, and that connecting with us—people with expertise and opinions and emotions—means working through that friction, always.

David is a software engineer at Kickstarter and has been deaf his whole life. I could quote many more parts of his piece, but that would be doing it an injustice. Instead, I’ll just leave you with this excerpt:

A high school classmate once expressed to my mother how I had inspired him to pursue programming seriously. If David can do it, so can I, he had said. He assumed I couldn’t program because he thought of me as broken, and my mere presence shattered his expectations. I can do better than the deaf kid, he had thought.

You should go and read about David’s experiences, perspective and thoughts right now.