Monthly Archives: July 2007

Ugly is beautiful!

Some of the ugliest sites are the easiest to use. Yet there is a persistent view among the web community that web sites must be elegant and beautiful examples of the designer’s art to be worth anything. This often means thumbing the nose at web accessibility and usability conventions such as blue underlined links, and the use of colours for maximum visibility.

Trade Me, Amazon, Google , My Space, and YouTube are ugly websites. They are also hugely successful websites. They don’t win a lot of design awards, but who cares – they are easy to use for most people and they make a lot of money.

Which leads me to the question, who are design awards for and what is their purpose? Suffice it to say that a site that AccEase user testers rated as their worst site ever for usability and accessibility has continued to win a whole raft of awards. I say let the users be the judge.

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Happy Birthday old friend

This year is the hundredth birthday of the NZ School journal. Around mumble mumble years ago I learned to read using the school journal. No big deal. Probably most of the kids in my generation of Kiwis did the same. But for me there was one big difference. Most early readers were off limits for me – I simply could not see enough to read the print. The large print editions of the school journal, and my wonderful new entrant teacher, were my introduction to literacy, and the whole wonderful world it brings to a young child.

Several years ago I mentioned to a friend in Special Education my few tatty copies, lovingly retained. (In those days you got to keep them.) She said there were no large print editions today. So a while later, when we moved house I couldn’t bear to throw them out and offered them back to SES for the records. Apparently they were the focus of some discussion.

Many disabled people, who are perfectly capable of learning to read, are, sadly, still leaving school barely literate. It seems to me to be a cruel and unusual form of punishment to deny someone, who may already face limited life choices the pleasure a good book, beautiful poem, or simply the daily reading of the news in the paper or on the web can bring, never mind being able to read the bus timetable, instructions for household appliances, study the Road Code, or understand everyday signage. Poor literacy is one way society further disables people.

Happy Birthday School Journal!

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Abnormals unite!

I am not normal. Let’s be clear about this. I have never been normal. And frankly my dear I don’t give a damn. Time was I did, that is when I was young and wanted to belong, and resented being bullied for being different. But now I see my lack of normality as a badge of honour. To quote Popeye the Sailor Man “I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam.” And those who don’t like it, tough!

But the definition of what is “normal” for a human being is becoming narrower by the day. Every day new “conditions” are being identified, with new treatments from the mainstream medical with fancy new drugs, to the weird and wacky quackery of the latest new age proponents.

Those of us who do not conform to the ideal anorexic model body shape for women and the sort of inverted pyramid favoured by the macho model male are consigned to the outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The latest freak show is the public humiliation of overweight people by the food Nazis, reality TV at its worst. Society has almost got over the public exhibition of various types of disabled people as freaks in favour of obesity and, for light relief, rare disease of the month, especially in children who probably have no say in their public exploitation.

We should recognise, celebrate and actively value the rich and wonderful diversity of humankind, remembering that it is those on the margins who are often the agents of important change, development and creativity. If we keep narrowing the definition of who is OK we might find ourselves disappearing up our own fundamental genetic orifice.

Come to think of it – if all the “abnormals” united we might just be a majority. Scary eh!

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Universal design and British Telecom

I received an email yesterday from a friend forwarded from the Blind Newsmail List. BT has launched a new online Inclusive Design Toolkit, at this year’s annual New Designers event at the Business Design Center, in Islington.

While this looks useful I found one example of ‘so called’ “inclusive design,” the Tesco web site had thought of screen readers only and may not function well for other disability groups.

I think I prefer the term Universal design, but I guess the more people who are talking and writing about, and actually doing it the better.

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