Kiernan Dempsey is a video editor and designer who double-majored in IMM and Computer Science. He is fascinated by how the internet has created new innovative ways of presenting information to people, exposing them to facts and new ideas that they might not have considered before. He hopes to work in either video editing or UX design.
“Web Accessibility Made Easy” is a series of tutorial videos about how to make websites easier to use for people with disabilities. It adapts information from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which is currently considered the industry standard when it comes to website accessibility. The project aims to use the visual medium of video to discuss the equally visual medium of web design, and use visual aids to encourage web designers to imagine how disabled users would experience a website differently.
This project was inspired by both my professional interests in video editing and UX design, and my experiences growing up visually impaired. I am well aware of how surprising it can be to find out that seemingly tried-and-true approaches to doing things don’t work when a disability enters the picture. And the growing field of web design seems to be feeling that surprise. While awareness of accessibility is increasing, many websites today have design problems that keep disabled users from experiencing the internet to its fullest extent. There has even been a wave of lawsuits targeting companies whose sites violate the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (source), simply because of how prevalent these mistakes are. If I go into UX design, I want to be sure that my designs will work for people like me, who see the world in ways that differ from how fully able-bodied users do.
To make this project, I designed motion graphics in Adobe Illustrator, and animated them in After Effects, all set to narration edited using Adobe Audition. I was very fortunate in that my project was not severely impacted by COVID-19, since the software I was using was already on my computer and I was not collaborating with other students. But the project was still a challenge for me, since I had never done motion graphics in After Effects to this extent. I had never tried to animate characters in After Effects before this project, for instance, and learning how to do that was one of the hardest parts of making these videos. I also had to come up with creative ways to illustrate abstract concepts, like the importance of color or images.
I wanted the videos to feel professional and non-confrontational, so I deliberately chose a cool color palate and fairly relaxed background music. I wanted these videos to be short (less than ten minutes) so as not to be intimidating to outsiders. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are long, with many subsections, and lots of jargon and technical terminology. That can be intimidating to look at. Many of the online courses available on Web Accessibility are similarly long, even if they are a bit easier to read for newcomers. Short videos seemed like a good way to introduce people to accessibility concepts in a way that did not require a huge commitment on the viewer’s part. I hope that these videos give people an idea of what using the internet with a disability is like. People should be more curious about the different ways that people experience the same internet.