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Designing for All

Howdy folks,


I always had an eye for design and a knack for building websites, but I didn’t formalize my skills until I found Turing School of Software & Design in Denver, Colorado. It is the only accredited software engineering school of its kind – students choose between either back-end focus or front-end focus and spend the next 7 months studying that focus and its accompanying coding languages. 


Now, unlike folks who work in medicine, education, finance, law, and ministry, software engineering and design are digital skills of which there is no standard bar for employment or regulation. Anyone who learns a coding language or graphic design can work in a company so long as they pass the company’s interview rounds. There is no State Bar, or Series 7, or MCAT or other form of testing or standard or certificate for someone to cite so long as they have the skill and pass the interview / get the job.


Problem is, without regulation on standards of who builds the internet, there exists all sorts of websites that have poor color choices, pictures, font sizes, and layouts that negatively affect folks with vision issues. Because those who are self-taught or who jumped straight into Squarespace, Wix, or Canva aren’t taught design principles and weren’t made aware of how to build websites for folks that are different from them. 


So why did I choose to go to an intensive school that held my attention to the tune of 80-hours a week if I didn’t need the certificate to get the job? Especially if I already had graduate loans from my Masters in Theology from my ministry days in my 20s?A) Because it’s hard to get to the interview as an entry level without a school background

B) I wanted the larger social and alumni network of a school system

C) Its accreditation and high-standards would gave me an edge in the job hunt and in my first year on the job

D) I needed to ask questions and learn what I didn’t know or didn’t think about 

E) I needed to know the theory and principles


There are a number of classes and lectures I could discuss, but my focus today is how Turing incorporated accessibility and disability into teaching us how to design websites. 


Theoretically, the internet should be accessible for any person with wifi. Because the world is now at our fingertips, any human being, regardless of their ability to walk, talk, hear, or see, should be able to use the internet to achieve their ends. If you are elderly or impaired, you should be able to use the internet. And they can. There are so, so many tools and functionalities and settings folks can use to modify their web or app experience so that they can use the web page to their abilities. 



We saw how COVID made everything internet-friendly. Much of what was made popular by COVID were concepts and requests of the handicapped community for years – digital orders of food, contactless delivery or curbside pick-up with push-button check-in, minimal use of voice or hearing communications with many customer service communications going chat or email. Things that people needed but were ignored were then rapidly made available by COVID’s digital push for conveniences for the abled-body masses.  


There are internet accessibility laws and regulations. If Hilton Hotels or Netflix decided tomorrow they wanted an white and yellow website, there are organizations that will sue on the grounds the website’s color contrasts were not vision-impaired-friendly. You may not be able to fix a client’s 50-year-old building's lack of an elevator, but you can edit the client’s website, Zoom conferencing settings, or branding so that their handicapped users can use and participate with the client’s services. 

Everything on a web page – buttons, text, header, menu, photos – everything has a type or name that the web browser uses to not only organize the site, but then uses an internet voice to describe audibly to a vision-impaired person what is on the page. It is very fast because it reads everything, and I encourage folks to google an example of an ‘accessibility web screen reader’ to experience how a visually impaired person uses the web. 


For example:

<button href=’www.example.com/join’’>Join here!</button>

Would then be read by the screen reader’s voice as: 

‘Click button Join Here to be taken to page ’www.example.com/join’


Bad websites aren’t just bad for impaired-vision folks, they’re bad for business. You don’t have to be handicapped to think a website is hard to use or read. You can just be a customer who needs a service but walks away because you got frustrated with that business’s website.


As a developer / designer, I use Google’s tools to test the websites I build to ensure the colors and images and texts are readable by all people. A great score is 90+, and I rarely perform under 97. 


I call it the ‘Mimi test’. If my grandmother, Mimi, (pictured attached) can easily navigate the website I built, I’ve built a damn good site.


Maybe that’s why McLaughlin Research Institute and Church of the Incarnation hired me to build their websites. 


Maybe that’s why you should, too.  




LL


Leigh Larson










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