Is accessibility actually usability?

An article of mine translated into Bulgarian.A couple of days ago I had the pleasure of speaking at the first seminiar on usability in Bulgaria. A great thanks to the people at .net and Lucrat in Bulgaria, it was a great event with great hosts. It was also great to see & meet Peter Merholz, having only seen his presentations online before!

I promised to post up my presentation (and thought I’d add some more links etc) for the people at the event. The Accessibility is usability presentation (2.4MB tagged PDF). is available.

Presentation Overview

Audience of the seminar

Audience of the seminar

A quick round up of the points made, sans examples:

  • Intro and Quick definition of terms.
  • There are a multitude of assistive technologies, too many to test with.
  • You can categorise the ways that people interact with sites.
  • Use these categories to understand how page interactions work in various circumstances.
  • Research and a case study that imply usability is improved by increasing accessibility.
  • Looking at several general usability principles (e.g. simplicity, consistency) you can see these are even more important for people with disabilities.
  • Generally accessibility is usability, but magnified. Take advantage of this – testing people with disabilities will find more issues more quickly, and make it easier to pick up the harder to find issues.
  • However, there is a gap, things like alt text, HTML structure, visible keyboard focus etc. do not affect the general population.
  • These items in the ‘accessibility gap’ do have other effects though. Google and mobile access are the two most obvious at the moment.
  • The answer:
    • In theory, accessibility = usability.
    • In practice, accessibility is mostly usability.
    • Legally, they are not the same.

More reading and info

I refered to a few links in the presentation, for convenience:

More videos

The videos in the presentation were pretty straightforward examples, these are more all-round usage videos:

2 contributions to “Is accessibility actually usability?

  1. Nice one AC sounds like a great event and you make some interesting points.

    I’ve grown to think of accessibility and usability as two elements that are joined at the hip.

    The main reason being they both help each other achieve their individual goals along with enhancing each other.

    I don’t think they are the same but I do strongly believe that there is a huge overlap and its virtually impossible to, successfully, do either without the other.

    Keep up the good work.

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