Othering and tokenizing
Wanting an easy-to-use experience is something desired by everyone. At the end of the day, people want to get in, get what they need, and get out, regardless of if they use assistive technology or not.
And that’s the point. Design is more than how things look, and digital experiences should be easy to use for everyone. Cumulative access friction, as well as accessibility barriers, are design concerns, just ones that aren’t prioritized as highly as others. The reason for this? Ableism.
More often than not accessibility issues are actually thought of as an extra feature. This is something extra that we’re going to do so that this special group of people can use it, but they’re not the majority.
Access friction and barriers also limit an individual’s opportunities. Lew, Charmaine, and Jaclyn are smart, technologically literate individuals. Their disabilities help define who they are, but they are not the sum of each person’s identity.
Jaclyn mentioned not being able to get reasonable accommodation for multiple coding boot camps, despite the fact that you don’t need vision to be a developer. This means her technical know-how gets put to use as an accessibility tester.
Don’t get me wrong: accessibility testing is a very vital job, and it is an extremely important space to have disability representation in. However, we don’t want accessibility testing to be the only career choice for all disabled assistive technology users.
Limiting disabled people to only giving feedback on how they operate their assistive technology creates a tokenizing effect, where abled people may artificially consign technologically-literate disabled individuals to only doing auditing work, and be closed to the idea of a desire and ability to do something else.
So what can we do about it?