BlindConfidential Takes on the "Cool Quotient" and Other Orthodoxies

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This blog is on a roll - and it's one worth tuning in on.

You have read here about the distinction between sterile (accessible without attention to the integrity of design) and style (successful application of Universal Design.) The December 2, 2006 post at BlindConfidential explores the roots of "cool", disability rights, and the current doldrum in Web design offering sage advice:

Other products that seem superfluously inaccessible because of an attempt by their authors to create a "cool" interface include spam filters, virus protection products and other security related programs. The only time a person with or without a disability cares to interact with such software is when they're installing it and when something has gone terribly wrong. Lots of flashy graphics, animations and other user interface elements intended to make the product look "cool" has nothing to do with the purpose of such products whose users rarely interact with them and, when they do, they may be in a total panic.

Of course, even the programs with the highest potential "cool quotient" with the most extremely nonstandard interface can be made accessible with a minimal amount of extra effort on behalf of its developers. When it comes to these programs I'm frankly quite sick and tired of hearing mainstream developers first say, "for our audience it has to be very, very cool..." and, even worse, "we'll build a separate, text only version for your people." Returning to Thurgood Marshall, "separate but equal isn't," so my advice to the mainstream developers of the world is to make your software or website as cool as you want but, follow the well-established accessibility standards and guidelines and learn principles of universal design and you can make super cool programs and websites that can be enjoyed by everyone -- with or without a disability.

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