A thread this week about emoji in Twitter titles provided me an instant treasure trove of design exclusion lessons — broadening my perspective and building empathy for non-visual people using Twitter.
First, though, let me back up a step to explain why it’s a gem. Why it illustrates the need for first thinking about exclusion when approaching inclusion.
Inclusive design became a major learning trend for me in 2017 — starting with fresh perspectives arriving in my life via the designers and developers at Automattic, especially our Head of Design John Maeda.
In April I jumped straight in via the Design and Exclusion conference we launched in collaboration with Twitter, NextDoor, Airbnb. Listening to debiasing stories where people shared intimate details of feeling excluded rocked my boat a bit.
My mind really cracked open in August when I become aware of Kat Holmes and her work on this crucial topic. Previously with Microsoft and now via her own company, Kata, Kat presented the foundations of inclusive design internally at work over a video call. She then presented a longer, in-person version at our Grand Meetup in September; and later in 2017 Kat became an official advisor to Automattic, also. Hurray to that!
For a great introduction to Kat and her work, see Kat Holmes: Who Gets To Play? on design.blog.
OK, back to the Twitter emoji in titles thing.
What. The. Heck. Like most lessons I’m learning about building inclusion into designs, this one hit me straight in the temple. Painfully. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? I mean, “duh.”
The author, a blind person named Sassy Outwater, not only points to something incredibly real and timely — but then proceeds to share a master class in accessibility in the reply threads that follow.
Here are a few highlights; check out the full thread for more as they come in.
Memes and GIFs are hard because the screen reader technology can’t figure out any optical character recognition (OCR) on the moving bits:
Tips and tricks for including blind people using screen readers:
Here are the current screen readers people love best:
Here’s the survey she mentioned: Survey of Preferences of Screen Readers Users on WebAIM.
Shedding the light on the fact that in today’s world, mobile devices are the most universally accessible devices because — they’re small and with you always — and they have default voice-over utilities:
And then a question I had, she answered perfectly, which in my mind was, “OK, so how does it sound when the screen reader comes across the non-text symbol?”
Hah! (smile) (laughing)
Learning, not shaming:
I don’t expect everyone to use the word please but I appreciate those who do. Common courtesy is society’s problem, not an issue to drop on developers. That’s ableist. Universal design says we are all sharing the same space. Courtesy goes a long way. — Sassy Outwater
Eye-Mind-opening, thank you Sassy — and Kat, John, Ashleigh, Lori, Anne, Cate, Maria, Davide, DK — and many others who’ve taught me so much about this topic.
I mentioned that this is timely — one reason is for learning and improving. The other is sharing what I’ve learned: if you’re in Arizona come to my talk about inclusive design at WordCamp Phoenix 2018 in February.