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Accessibility First – A Novel Teaching Method

By Ian Lloyd | March 20th, 2006 | Filed in Accessibility, Education, Training

Educator Brian Rosmaita proposes an ‘accessibility first’ approach for teaching web design.

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As reported on Accessify and Matt Bailey’s accessibility blog, news reaches us of a novel way of teaching web design, that being with accessibility very much at the forefront, rather than the bolt-on affair that it often is in web design.

His paper proposes an “accessibility first” pedagogy for web design, developed at Hamilton, in which the course is organized around the requirement of implementing web pages accessible to visually impaired computer users, as opposed to the traditional method of teaching accessibility only after students have already learned web design.

It’s an interesting way of approaching things. For many seasoned (and professional) web developers/designers, accessibility is not something that we necessarily have to make a special effort to add on at the end, it’s just something that we do, something that we consider an integral part of the whole design process. For learners, however, the issues surrounding web accessibility are not immediately obvious and very few books or courses teach this from the outset – it usually ends up as an appendix or even a follow-on book (that many won’t get round to reading). So it’s great to hear of a course that places such importance on accessibility.

More information about Brian Rosmaita’s paper ‘Accessibility First: A New Approach to Web Design‘ can be found here.

On a related note, at this year’s South by Southwest conference I had a conversation with someone who is currently working on a site redesign that is aimed very much at people with visual impairments, and he was telling me that they are not going to design anything visual at all to begin with. Basically, they’re concentrating on the content, the IA/navigation and semantics first and then ensuring the site works really well in screen readers. Only when that milestone is reached will they think about adding the presentational layer. I found that to be a brave way of approaching things and turns web design as many people know it on its head. Can anyone else recall similarly designed sites? If so, I’d be intrigued to know how they ended up looking.

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#1 On March 20th, 2006 8:14 am