Let’s start today’s post off with an overview of the disability types we need to think about when we create accessible documentation.

There are five major disability groups that we need to consider when creating documentation:

  • Visual. Visual disabilities include blindness, low-vision, and color-blindness. As writers, our main target is readers, so it only makes sense that our most heavily hit area in our quest for Accessibility Zen will be Visual Accessibility. I have many tricks and tidbits for you, and I really can’t wait to talk to you about a new advance on the horizon from Samsung that will enable us to help our Braille readers get closer to being able to use our documentation in a meaningful, and faster, way. We’ll also discuss image accessibility, and I’ll provide examples of how to make accessibility happen in the tools that you use every day, including RoboHelp, Madcap Flare, wikis, HTML, and Word/PDF documents.
  • Auditory. This section covers those individuals with mild, moderate, severe, and profound hearing loss of varying types, including conductive, neural, high and/or low tone hearing loss. Some individuals fall under both the deaf and blind categories. From a Technical Communications point of view, we’ll talk about how to make our multi-media content accessible to deaf users.
  • Motor. Motor disabilities are any disability that affects the user’s ability to interact with your document, such as spinal cord injury, muscular disability, limb loss, or multiple sclerosis. Expect our discussion about this topic to be interesting—we’ll make a case for eschewing all of the fun little bells and whistles that technical communications tools give you, like expanding hotspots, pop-ups, and things of that nature that users with motor issues may have a more difficult time with in favor of making your documentation mouse-click-free.
  • Cognitive. Many people have some form of cognitive disability that affects their use of content, such as memory problems, problem solving and attention issues, visual or math comprehension disabilities, or reading, linguistic, and verbal comprehension problems. Don’t make the mistake of discounting this group! You likely know several people that fit in this “box,” including friends with dyslexia, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder. Tehnical Communicators are compliant with this section as a rule—we write for clarity and simplicity—but there are a few quick, simple things to add to documentation that will step it up a notch.
  • Seizure. Individuals with seizure disorders have a very limited, but nonetheless important, set of accessibility features. Generally, the goal is to avoid strobing and pulsing lights, and we’ll discuss that in a little more depth when we get there.

I’m planning to keep these posts bite-sized so that you can digest the information and begin incorporating the suggestions into your own writing. So, think about how (or if) you already make information accessible in your position, and keep on following these posts. By the time I’m done, you’ll be the accessibility expert in your organization!

I’ll see you in a few days and we’ll talk about resources–where you can look to find out about current accessibility standards.

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