For the CSUN 2017 Assistive Technology conference, two of my colleagues and I hosted a full day workshop called Inclusive Design Fundamentals. Our goal was to teach designers about the accessibility considerations that exist at the design phase for websites and apps, and to give them tools to practice accessibility in their own work.
The workshop took quite a lot of planning between the three of us. We had to submit a workshop abstract to the conference a full 6 months beforehand, so we knew what our goals were early on, but not the specifics of what we were going to cover. We began meeting weekly months before the conference in order to start preparing.
Planning the Workshop
We spent the first few weeks of planning deciding which topics we were going to cover and, at a high level, how we were going to present them. Our first step was to make a list of all of the high level topics that we felt were important for designers to understand, such as images and form design. We then figured out roughly how much time we would we need to present each topic, and factored that into how much time we had for the workshop. We ended up narrowing our list down to the 10 topics we felt had the highest impact when dealt with at the design phase, along with a basic blueprint for how we would present the topics.
Once we’d figured out which topics we wanted to cover, we split them up among the three of us. We each had 3 or 4 topics to research, plan, and build slides and exercises for. For each topic, we picked a few key things to talk about, and listed the types of disabilities affected and the public resources we were pulling on. Once most of the writing was complete, we all looked at each other’s work and edited for completeness and consistency. I covered the topics of: Visual Information, Color Contrast, Navigation and Consistency, and Forms.
Because we expected to have people with disabilities in our workshop or accessing our material after the fact, we made sure that all of our materials were digitized and easily accessible – including the slides we used to present. We also needed to collaborate on building the slide deck, so using a web-based slide service was important. We chose Slides.com because it was accessible and reliable.
We synthesized each topic into a simple handout which described the topic, listed the disabilities affected, and gave a checklist for designers to follow when considering accessibility for that topic. I designed the handouts for the web, as well as a print stylesheet so attendees could print extra copies. I also used InDesign to create and print booklets containing the same checklists to hand out to workshop attendees.
We wanted to make sure our workshop was interactive, so the attendees wouldn’t have to spend the whole day sitting and listening to us ramble. To that end, we created exercise handouts for each of our topics. Each exercise addressed a specific aspect of the topic that designers would be likely to encounter in the real world. We decided to have attendees work in groups so that blind and low vision attendees would be able to participate more easily.
We created a website on Github to house all of the handouts, exercises, and slides we’d created for the workshop. I did the HTML and CSS, while Matt set up the framework. All three of us created the content for it. We wanted everything to be digitally accessible, and also wanted attendees to be able to easily share the resources with coworkers or colleagues after the workshop was over. All of the materials we created are open source. I still refer to the website fairly frequently when working on talks and blog posts about accessibility.
What We Learned
Hosting a workshop was a huge undertaking – it was more work than we expected. We were all fortunate that Deque allowed us to prepare for the conference as part of our jobs. We enjoyed doing the workshop, and got a lot of great feedback from attendees. However, even though we had all of the materials put together already, we decided giving the workshop again soon would take more effort than we were willing to make.