Gardner Information Design, Inc.

Please tell us about how you focused on accessibility and/or how you improved the successfulness of a product, service, experience, etc., through attention to accessibility.: 

When you become committed to making the World Wide Web accessible, suddenly, everything you do seems to be related to making electronic information more accessible.

In 2003, I enrolled in an Accessible Web Design graduate certificate program at Northeastern University. It was sad that even before I completed the program, the program had already been renamed to Interactive Design, because marketing an Accessibility course "wasn't profitable enough". As I worked my way through my graduate certificate courses, and ever since, I have steeped myself in everything I can learn about accessible web design.

As a class project at Northeastern, I created Boston-IA (www.boston-ia.org), an organization "Making Internet Accessibility Mainstream". I gathered a board and promoted the organization to web designers, developers, and related disciplines. Between 2003 and 2010, Boston-IA met several times a year, bringing together the accessibility advocates throughout New England to hear important local experts in accessibility. I hand-coded, designed, and built the Boston-IA website as a showcase of best practices in accessible web design.

Through my company, Gardner Information Design, Inc. (www.GIDI.biz), I offer my accessibility services to both enterprise-sized organizations building web applications and to individuals and small, entrepreneurial companies that need web sites. My small business clients get accessible web sites whether they ask for them or not (!), through strict adherence to accessibility standards. For larger clients, I incorporate accessible web standards whenever project requirements permit and frequently act as the accessibility consultant on web teams.

I achieve accessible results, chiefly through strict adherence to Section 508 and W3C Web Accessibility Initiative standards (such as WCAG 2.0 and WAI-ARIA 1.0), through standards-based XHTML/HTML5 and CSS coding, and constant attention to web accessibility needs in everything I do.

I currently participate in the Boston Accessibility Roundtable (www.a11ybos.org), a local professional group, which gathers accessibility experts in the greater Boston area on a monthly basis and through our annual conferences.

What can others learn from the successes and failures of your approach to making accessible experiences?: 

Be sure to view the articles in the Newsletter section of the Boston-IA website at www.Boston-IA.org for a wealth of materials about the field of accessibility. Also visit the accessibility pages at www.GIDI.biz.

The world of web development has changed radically in the last several years.  I have written a White Paper about some of my recent thoughts about the challenges of acheiving accessibility in today's environments. Luckily, we have the WAI-ARIA standards, developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative at the World Wide Web Consortium, for making Rich Internet Applications accessible.

Read the White Paper at the link below (in tagged PDF format):

http://www.gidi.biz/documents/White Paper - Web Accessibility - Gardner Information Design, Inc.pdf

What did you do, what was required, and/or what justifications did you need to establish to ensure that accessibility became and remained a requirement for your product or service?: 

Achieving accessibility of products and services requires complete attention to accessibility in every aspect of the development process. Over my career, once I became aware of my commitment to accessibility, I found myself gravitating to every piece of information about the subject from every source. My organization, Boston-IA, was founded with the purpose of teaching others about accessibility and advocating for it in every way possible.

How did you ensure the needs of users with impairments or special requirements were considered throughout the process of designing your product or service?: 

Meeting with people with every form of access need and watching them try to access the internet using any accommodation that they happen to use, is very inspiring. It is the one single thing I can recommend to web development teams in becoming aware of why accessibility is so necessary, important, and worthwhile.

What are the most significant ways that your attention to accessibility manifested in the product or service, and what effect has that had on users?: 

As a front-end web developer, I learned most of what I know about making the internet accessible by hand-coding. Without seeing how every thought and decision affects the end result turned out to be formative for me, and critical to my understanding of the roles of others in helping them learn about accessibility.