Is it Accessibility or Usability?

December 15, 2014 | Leave a Comment

by David Flament, MA, Manager of Adaptive Technology Services at Second Sense

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I ran into something recently on our technology email list, Techexchange, which made me think, “Hmmm.”  It was a forwarded article about Peapod settling a lawsuit about their website not being accessible.  I found this funny as I had just received my order from Peapod a couple of days earlier and had just taught shopping with Peapod as part of our Online Shopping class the day before.  It gave me a couple of things to think about.

The first thing I wondered was, “Do people know the difference between accessibility and usability?”

Which is it?

If something can be accessed by a person with a disability, then it is accessible.  If that thing is difficult to do and is not user-friendly, then that is a usability problem, not an accessibility problem.  The Peapod web site is a perfect example.  I have had clients tell me how inaccessible the Peapod web site is, but after taking our online shopping class, they are able to shop independently on that same web site.

Even from a usability standpoint, I have seen much worse than the Peapod web site.  I have shopped using the Peapod web site for over 13 years with a screen magnifier at first, then later with a screen reader, and only had minor difficulties.  I have even shopped using the Peapod iPhone app with VoiceOver and found it very user-friendly.

The Right Fight

Another thought I had was, “Are we as a blind community picking the right fights?”

Are Peapod and Apple posing a bigger problem to our community than Google or NetFlix?  Take the recent NFB resolution about Apple for example.  While I understand what NFB is trying to do, is that one of the biggest problems faced by our community?  I did applaud the NFB when they went after schools choosing the mostly inaccessible Kindle as the way to distribute books to their students.  I felt that was a major accessibility barrier for those in our community who wanted an education.

A company like NetFlix who knows their service is inaccessible and just does not care, seems to be much more egregious than Apple who has made accessibility a top priority throughout their company.  Perhaps we should concentrate our efforts on solving our biggest problems first, then going after the minor inconveniences and usability issues later.

What do you think?

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