When we think of access to or accessibility of ICT we often think of people with disabilities. But there is a much larger group of people who are finding it ever more difficult to learn, work or live in the increasingly “technified” world we are creating - perhaps a third of the population, young and old. Further, our current approaches to ICT access work only moderately well for today’s technologies, but will not work at all for many of the next-next-generation interface technologies.
In order to create interfaces that can really revolutionize the world - for everyone - we need to 1) understand the scope of the problem today, 2) understand the impact of each person's TQ (Technology Quotient) on their ability to use our designs, 3) thoroughly explore both the barriers and the opportunities that next-next-generation interface technologies will create, and 4) look to new paradigms both for creating our (standard) interfaces and for creating alternate interfaces for those who cannot use the standard interfaces… interfaces (real and virtual) that we will be providing on almost everything and every activity in our environments.
We also need to find a different approach to creating products that are accessible/usable by all. An approach that does not expect every organization designing products to be able to understand the needs of everyone who cannot use our shipping interface, nor expect them to understand all the strategies needed to address their very varied needs. Can our emerging technologies, and a new social contract between consumers and industry, allow us to create such an alternate approach to accessibility and extended usability?
Dr Vanderheiden has worked in technology and disability for just shy of 50 years. He was a pioneer in Augmentative Communication (a term he coined in the 1970’s) and in cross-disability access to ICT. His work is found in every Windows and Macintosh computer, iOS and Android phone or tablet, US Automated Postal Stations, Amtrak ticket machines and many other products you encounter daily. Most of the initial access features in both Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac operating systems came from work of his research group.
Dr Vanderheiden created the first accessibility guidelines for computers and software (‘85), consumer products (‘91) and the web (’95)– and co-chaired both WCAG 1.0 and 2.0 working groups. He has worked with over 50 companies and numerous consumer groups and government advisory & planning committees, including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), the United States Access Board and The White House. He has received over 35 awards for his work. Dr Vanderheiden holds a BS in Electrical Engineering, MS in Biomedical Engineering, and Ph.D in Technology in Communication and Child Development from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.