Make sure accessibility is afloat

In my mother tongue, the word for “launch” has to do with boats. It is used for launching projects and ideas as well, but etymologically, it comes from something being seaborn. This time of the year, everyone who is joining the effort and party around launching veteran wooden boats, can think of little else. It is always a fantastic experience full of laughter and joy, but also concern. Will she float? Do the pumps work? Can I trust the level guard?

Susanna Laurin

Title: Chief Research and Innovation Officer

Like most wooden boat owners, we sleep in the boat during the first nights after launch. The reason is obvious: if the boat sinks, we'll be on board. Or, a little more prosaic; My husband is sleeping with his arm outside the berth. Should the water rise, he will get wet on his hand and wake up. At least in theory.

Certainly it takes craftmanship to take care of our floating cultural heritage, but there is no real rocket science. If you take good care of your boat, there will be no disaster, but if you are careless or sloppy, the launch can indeed turn into a night mare.

In many ways, wooden boat life resembles accessibility work. My simple recipe for success with wooden boats and accessibility alike comes here:

Susanna Laurin's simple recipe for success with wooden boats and accessibility alike

Activity Wooden boat Accessibility
Good planning What improvements do we need / can we make this year? Make sure there is time to test during the course of the project.
Start on time Start the winter preparations early, even though it is cold and dark. The earlier you get accessibility into the project, the more chance you will be successful.
Correct tools Essential. Don’t be stingy. It will be faster, nicer and much more fun with the right stuff! Set clear and detailed requirements so the supplier can understand what you want. Then you can also control that you received what you ordered.
Patience Find your own meditation technique to survive the drying time between layers of varnish and the eternal vacuum cleaning. Laws, rules and standards are boring and difficult. But raise your head and think about how good the end result will become!
Check while working Use your hand, rotate the lamp, change position, take a few steps back and make sure you've done everything right. Test everything. Feel free to use end users or experts. By all means test yourself too. Ongoing during the whole project.
Ask for help when needed I can assure you that someone has made that awkward repair before you. Ask for help! Wooden boat owners are generous. No one can know everything. When it comes to specific tests with assistive technology or the like – ask for help.

The alternative is a sinking ship

Along our coasts, you can sometimes see examples of miscarriage, forgotten old beauties and total wrecks. Boats that have taken a long time and much thought to construct and build, but who are now left to lapse into ignorance. Boats launched in poor condition who must hang with straps underneath, locked in the launcher, for several days before they can float on their own. It's sad to see.

That’s the kind of wreck I visualize when organizations seriously tell us they prefer to claim "undue burden" rather than even trying to make the interfaces work for everyone. They spend so much time on escaping the regulations that they could easily have solved the accessibility problems with the same resources. To me, it’s a tad provocative, because making digital solutions accessible is actually quite easy when compared to renovating a veteran boat. I can understand a person who gives up when everything is rotten and leaking, but I find it difficult to understand fellow humans who choose not to create accessible interfaces. I'd like to give them a piece of sandpaper as a gift.

To all of you - the vast majority - who do your best to create inclusion, I wish for a relaxing summer, with or without a boat.

Related chronicles by Susanna Laurin

  • When new technology supports the users

    15 February 2021

    Funka's Chief Research and Innovation Officer Susanna Laurin on technology that really provide support but still make people wonder.

  • Accessibility at a distance

    14 December 2020

    The main reason for conferences and meetings is, well, to meet. Speakers and panels are of course important, but quite often the most interesting conversations occur during the coffee break. This is hard to replicate when most events happen online.

  • Accessibility is moving forward – believe it or not

    6 May 2019

    Sometimes progress is hard to spot if you are in the middle of the whole thing. It might be useful to take a step back and reflect on all the different things going on in our business. The evolution is quite impressive, says Funka's Research and Innovation Officer.

  • Focus on elderly users

    7 February 2019

    Funka's CEO Susanna Laurin reports from a debate in the European Parliament and international standardization that deals with the inclusion of elderly in IT development.

  • Thanks for another amazing year!

    29 November 2018

    Another year of accessibility work is coming to an end. Funkas’ Susanna Laurin writes about the importance of positive feedback and the need to give appreciation to those who do the right thing.

  • Between hope and despair

    14 August 2018

    Monitoring and possible fines can be a driving force for accessibility. But at the same time, threats can mean that services are taken down. How do we make sure that legislation increases accessibility?

  • Germany Inclusion Days in Berlin

    5 December 2017

    The International Day of Disabled Persons keeps us busy in all our markets. This year we contribute to the Inclusion Days program in Berlin, Germany.

  • It's time to put our feet down!

    8 November 2017

    A judicial precedent now allows for a tighter interpretation of the Swedish law on support and services for certain disabled people. This may mean that many people lose their right to personal assistance. Do we really want people to be denied a worthy life on equal terms with others?

  • Accessible summer greetings

    12 June 2017

    As the sun glistens in the ocean, the birds wake me up in the early mornings and life gets a little easier once sunshine and warm weather turn our latitudes into paradise, a report on digitization makes me even more happy.

  • Funka in the U.S.

    6 March 2017

    We are always interested in what is going on in our market. When two conferences on accessibility, gaming and assistive technology happens in the same week, the agenda is filling up.

  • The eternal question of cost

    7 February 2017

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin reports from an EU conference on accessibility and legislation in Brussels. The focus is, as usual, on the economy.

  • To recycle consultants

    6 January 2017

    Two of our very competent consultants have tried their wings with our clients and then chosen to come back to Funka. Naturally, we're very excited and we've asked Oskar and Karin to tell us a little bit about their experiences.

  • 10 years with the UNCRPD

    8 December 2016

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin ponders what we celebrate on the international day of persons with disabilities. Accessibility seems - more than ever - a moving target.

  • An international perspective on accessibility

    4 July 2016

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin is reporting on an exciting meeting of experts from all over the world, at the US Access Board in Washington.

  • Report from the European eAccessibility Forum in Paris

    17 June 2016

    The French association for the visually impaired, BrailleNet, arrange an annual conference on digital accessibility. The theme for the 2016 edition was the internet of things. Funka’s own Susanna Laurin is reporting from the conference.

  • The dangers of legislation

    10 March 2016

    An unsettling trend is happening in the U.S.: by using legislation as a battering ram lawyers are making money, but inaccessibility persist.

  • There’s hope for the future

    30 November 2015

    Susanna Laurin's reflections on the situation for people with disabilities face in the world today.

  • Integrity and culture

    11 September 2015

    Funka’s CEO Susanna Laurin reflects on cultural differences between Spain and Sweden, personal integrity and how badly things can get, even when you try your hardest to do the right thing.

  • While we are enjoying it

    18 June 2015

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin considers trends in accessibility and the fact that we no longer have much time to reflect.

  • When technology can make a difference

    18 March 2015

    Different safety and technology aspects are being brought up as arguments against e-voting, but these problems must be possible to overcome. Funka's Susanna Laurin takes some time to reflect upon the democratic perspective of e-voting and today's broad lack of accessibility.

  • A mutual admiration society

    29 October 2014

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin questions why accessibility and user experience experts are so eager to talk to people with similar opinions. Would it not be better to let different views and opinions meet to bring about change?

  • Sunny days, but no time to be lazy

    19 June 2014

    We look back at a hectic period and look forward to even more work. But first of all, we will enjoy the summer holidays.

  • Good for all...?

    25 February 2014

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin rejoices in the fact that design for all really works in our everyday life.

  • Funka Christmas letter 2013

    20 December 2013

    Susanna Laurin, Funka, sums up a busy year. A year of continued growth, continued expansion in Norway and a new office in Madrid.

  • Why WCAG is not enough

    25 October 2013

    It is leaning towards legislation on web accessibility in the EU. Funka's Susanna Laurin takes a closer look at what the guidelines that almost everyone is pointing towards actually entail for the users.