Kim Hodges - Following universal design principles to improve accessibility
Are you overwhelmed by the complexity of accessibility for digital products? In this episode, Kim Hodges digs into the common misconceptions of accessibility, what he sees missed the most when reviewing digital products for accessibility and how to set a strategy early in a project to ensure that your product is more functional for individuals with disabilities.
In episode 41 of The Product Design Podcast, Seth Coelen interviews Kim Hodges, Director of Digital Accessibility at the University of South Carolina. Kim has a fascinating origin story that led him to accessibility, which he tells us in the full episode. He has over fourteen years of personal and professional experience making digital environments more functional for individuals with disabilities.
During our chat, Kim shares exactly what led him to a career in digital accessibility, the biggest mistakes and most common misconceptions of accessibility, and the best strategy to follow when starting a new project to ensure your product is functional for individuals with disabilities. Kim’s interview is packed with things to consider, from an accessibility standpoint, as you approach your next project.
When Kim was 25 years old, he woke up with vision issues. He immediately went to an optometrist who diagnosed him as legally blind, and over the next year, he lost most of his vision. An ophthalmologist and a neuro-ophthalmologist took over a year to formally diagnose Kim. He was finally diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease that caused inflammation in his optic nerve and his visual cortex, causing him to become blind.
Once diagnosed, Kim realized he would need to adjust his life to live permanently as a person with a visual impairment. He went to live in a residential center to learn how to use a cane, read braille and use technology that supports people with varying types of disabilities. Kim became very interested in the technology he was learning about and grew a passion for accessibility through the need to learn how to live with his visual impairment. He soon became heavily involved in improving digital accessibility at the college he was attending and eventually other universities as well. Over time, his personal passion eventually turned into a professional passion for accessibility.
About seven years ago, Kim’s autoimmune disease went into remission, and he regained his eyesight. He shares his fascinating journey with us in the full episode. While living without sight, he experienced the harsh reality of the difficulties people with varying disabilities have. For over 17 years, Kim has worked in digital accessibility. Over the years, he has gained a wealth of experience and knowledge on accessibility and shared some common misconceptions people have about digital accessibility.
“If you're following universal design principles, you're developing, you're coding, and you're building products in a way that is mindful of all users, it's not only going to be more efficient in the long run, but it also makes everybody's user experience better, not just people with disabilities.”
During our conversation with Kim, he shared several of the most common issues he comes across when reviewing digital products for accessibility. One of the biggest is tagging, which can include many issues. Here are a few examples of what Kim told us to look out for.
“Your particular product might not be designed with people with disabilities in mind, but if it's designed with people in mind, we have to account for all of the phases that people go through in their life.”
We wanted to thank Kim for joining us on the show to share fantastic advice on approaching accessibility in digital products. From common misconceptions to things to avoid from an accessibility standpoint, there is so much for us all to learn from Kim's valuable experience. We are grateful that Kim gave specific examples to apply as we all continue improving accessibility in our work.
Listen to the complete episode on The Product Design Podcast, which includes more about Kim's origin story, its impact on his career in accessibility, and how to set a strategy that includes accessibility on your next project. Don't forget to follow Kim on LinkedIn to keep up with what he is doing!
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