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Thread: Usability versus Rules


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From: Bourne, Sarah (ITD)
Date: Mon, Jan 26 2015 12:30PM
Subject: Usability versus Rules
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Today (and probably tomorrow, and maybe Wednesday, too) the Mass.Gov website has emergency alerts about the big snowstorm posted on (almost) all pages. While our "skip to main content" is usually the first link in the tab order of the page, this is not true when there are emergency alerts, so our page would fail any tool/methodology that tests to see if it's first. But we broke this rule quite deliberately, based on usability testing and feedback from the project working on emergency protocols ensuring adequate support for people with disabilities (e911, etc.) The alerts were designed to catch the eye of sighted users, regardless of what task brought them to the site, and people using screen readers wanted that insistence, too.

But we sure have a lot of them today; we didn't do usability testing with this many! It's bound to get old by your third page in or so.

Sharing this up as an example of accessibility being more than ticking off boxes on a checklist, and the trials and tribulations of usability: trying to make it work for everybody, every time.

Sarah E. Bourne
Director of IT Accessibility
Massachusetts Office of Information Technology
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
1 Ashburton Pl. rm 1601 Boston MA 02108