Technology | Wendee Fiorillo| July 18, 2019
EBSCO Information Services has partnered with The Carroll Center for the Blind, using accessible design to create a better user experience for all researchers.
EBSCO Information Services (EBSCO) Lead UX Engineer Wendee Fiorillo writes about the Carroll Center partnership and its impact on all users.
EBSCO Information Services recently partnered with The Carroll Center for the Blind, which is particularly exciting from a design and development point of view. Making accessible web sites and web applications can be challenging. As a user experience designer with a focus on accessibility, a big part of what makes creating accessible web content difficult is not including accessibility in the beginning stages of the design process and not having access to user feedback. EBSCO’s partnership with The Carroll Center is an opportunity to have more channels for feedback and communication throughout the phases of our design and development cycles.
For the early stages of our process, we are working with Bruce Howell from The Carroll Center to define user personas based on varying user needs and abilities. These user personas will help us better understand the journey of an assistive technology user and the different pain points they may experience along the way. Understanding users and their needs will help guide and inform our business, design, and development decisions as we continue to make meaningful enhancements to our products.
Working with The Carroll Center helps us gain a deeper understanding of how users navigate with various assistive technologies and gives developers the ability to explore alternative designs and implementations.
Another way this partnership is proving to be helpful is in both validating and busting our designs, assumptions and thought processes. Even with a great number of development resources on accessibility guidelines, authoring practices and the technical expertise of our accessibility subject matter experts (SME) in house, we still need to be mindful the overall user experience. Working with The Carroll Center helps us gain a deeper understanding of how users navigate with various assistive technologies and gives our teams the ability to explore alternative designs and implementations to remove or reduce complexity for all users.
The benefits of this partnership have already been very fruitful. For example, as we were looking into making feature enhancements for sorting data, we did some research and exploration on an initial design and defined an implementation strategy which was technically spot on and met all the accessibility checks. When we reviewed the design and implementation strategy with Bruce and his team, they confirmed that our plan was accessible but noted that it may still be very difficult for the average assistive technology user to navigate. The Carroll Center was able to provide an alternate design concept that would be easier for a greater majority of users. From a design perspective, this type of feedback is invaluable and impacts our design thinking. From a development perspective, this type of feedback has saved a lot of development time and testing.
Additionally, we are expanding our usability testing to include testing at the Carroll Center with assistive technology users. This allows us to learn more about our users with varying skills and abilities and to gain insights into how our products are used with a variety of assistive technologies and devices.
We look forward to growing and defining our partnership with The Carroll Center for the Blind as we continue to enhance and develop our products. On The Carroll Center for the Blind’s website, they say, “Accessibility isn't a fad — it's the new standard,” and we feel the same way. Accessibility is not a “nice-to-have” feature — it is an essential part of our process.
Wendee Fiorillo is a lead user experience engineer on EBSCO Information Services’ User Experience and Design team and a subject matter expert on accessibility. Wendee is passionate about user experience and is an advocate for accessibility throughout design and development process.
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