Flickr’s Relevant Photo Group Collections

Flickr has several groups that contain interesting images related to accessibility and technical communication. Log on to Flickr and go to the Groups tab to see a list of all groups and search for a group. You'll be sure to find something that is relevant or gives you a good laugh. Some groups we like are

  • Usability & Accessibility – Photos from the UPA.
  • This Is Broken – Photos about the brokenness (bad design) of items, places, etc. … see for more.
  • !Rock That Disability! – This is a group for anyone with a disability, physical, mental or otherwise. (But not just them!) Pictures you want to share.
  • Crutches, Wheelchairs and Canes – The beauty of people who use crutches, wheelchairs, or canes to get around. We welcome pictures of these items being used.
  • Design: Oohs & Aaughs – Photos of both praiseworthy and inadequate design. These are products, objects, and experiences (good or bad), which impact us enough to stop and take notice (and take a photo, too).
  • Public Computer Errors – Computer crashes, errors and other horrors as viewed by those of us innocently traveling along in life.
  • Accessible Travel – Photos of accessibility in tourism hot spots around the world. This includes wheelchair access, Braille signage, sound, markers for the hearing impaired, accessible and inaccessible intersections, public transportation, maps, lodging, restaurants, bathrooms, telephones and communication infrastructure, museum signage, best practices/worst practices, You (!) enjoying a public place with superb accessibility.
  • Wheelchair Accessible Trails – Photos taken on wheelchair accessible or paved hiking trails.
  • Rolling Rains – Travel with a Disability – This group gives travelers with disabilities, their travel companions, friends, and allies of the disability community a place to post about travel. Sometimes we see (or use other senses) differently; sometimes not. To publish your work here you don't need to snap a shot of every curb cut or Braille road sign – aesthetics counts – but somehow weave in insights about accessibility as you tell your story. The combination of photos, firsthand commentary, and the ability to contact the poster provides a unique and ever-changing consumer-level guide for the disability community on to where to go for a good time.
  • Old Wheelchairs, Gurneys, & Outdated Medical Equip – Photographs of outdated/decayed/found Medical Equipment/Devices. The older the better.
  • Writing Machines – Photos of typewriters, printing presses, and movable type—anything to do with the mechanical reproduction or creation of the written word.
  • Writing – Photos about writing and the life of writers. If you are a writer/journalist, you can show fragments of your writing life. Includes photos of handwritten pieces, pens, notebooks, Moleskines, and so on. Photos of people writing and artworks if the theme is "words, writing, writers".
  • Written In Stone – Photos of inscriptions (i.e., words, phrases, names) carved into stone such as on tombs, monuments, and buildings.

If you encounter another group you think we should add, please send us a note with the name of the Flickr group.

World Usability Day 2009: Sustainability and Accessibility

Today marks another World Usability Day with the theme of "Sustainability".

What is World Usability Day?

World Usability Day was founded to ensure that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use. Each year, it has a specific focus and is honored around the world on the second Thursday of the month of November.

The sustainability theme is divided into four "pillars":

  • Environmental
  • Social
  • Economical
  • Technology, Tools & Resources

So where is accessibility? Ask 10% of our planet.

The United Nations Factsheet on Persons with Disabilities states that around "10 per cent of the world's population, or 650 million people, live with a disability. They are the world's largest minority." Can we ignore the world's largest minority while designing for a more sustainable world?

How do we get from "sustainability" to "accessibility"?

Some of the thoughts that popped into my head when thinking about this:

  • Light bulbs. The humble incandescent light bulb is being accused of harming our environment. Many countries have started to phase it out. However, many people feel that it is the only artificial light source that provides a good source of light in which to work or read. Who wins? The environment or the people who have vision issues? Will a quality replacement that does not burden the environment be made commercially available in time?
  • Wheelchairs. This is just one of many devices that some people need, but cannot get – if it wasn't for the existence of organizations like Wheelchair Foundation. Many assistive devices exist to let people get on with their lives. After all, even people with disabilities want to dance [Wheelchair Dancers Organization (WDO)] or play basketball [International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF)]
  • The World Wide Web. OK. This is a biggie for such a short article. There are so many people connecting to other people around the world thanks the World Wide Web. (Thanks, Sir Tim!) I can connect with people around the world and exchange all sorts of ideas, and no, I'm not talking about what we ate for breakfast. I am talking about sharing resources, collaborating on projects, inspiring to greatness, and leaving a trail of knowledge for others to play with and reshape, etc., etc. I categorize that as sustaining life!
  • People. "Make better use of our resources" is one phrase I saw on the World Usability Day site. People are resources. We can all contribute to the design of a more sustainable world, including that 10% where the need for such a world may be strongest.
  • Heating and cooling. Have you ever tried to work in an office that was too hot or too cold? You could not think straight or your fingers froze to the keyboard. Many of us live and work in climates that require some sort of climate control so we can function. Some of us could even fall ill or die if there was no climate control. Sustainable energy resources are necessary for decent home and office environments. (The topic of those who don't have an office or home, well …)
  • Energy-saving hardware and appliances. Did you ever hear of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine? It requires electricity. You may know people who don't have a visible disability, yet people you know could be sleeping with this device at night to save their lives. They need electricity. There are many, many smart gadgets and devices that exist to save lives or improve life quality, and which require electricity or batteries. It would be wonderful if we could make low-tech versions of some devices and spread the energy burden in that manner.

I'll stop here. This is meant to set your thoughts in motion.

Continue thinking along these lines or try to map my thoughts here to the pillars mentioned earlier. Go back to the UN factsheet. Try to map those items to the pillars, too.

I like the two pillar descriptions in the following quote from the World Usability Day site.

Human-centered design directly supports the first two pillars of sustainability:

Economic – matching a design to user's needs and abilities enhance its utilization, quality, and efficiency, thus providing cost effective solutions and reducing the likelihood that systems products and services will be rejected by their users

Social – taking a human-centered approach results in systems, products and services which are better for the health and wellbeing of their users, including users with disabilities

Those are great mindsets for continuing this train of thought on sustainability and accessibility.

Where's the techcomm angle?

Ah, but again, technical communication is where people are. Communicating the concepts of sustainability – through product descriptions, how-to documents, regulations, and so on – requires the skills of people working in some way with technical communication. I think readers know by now that the toolkit of a technical communicator contains "accessibility". Our readers are also aware that a technical communicator can depend on accessibility in authoring tools, or the workplace, or the home.

Sustainability and accessibility are topics for every day, not just World Usability Day. I don't go into great detail here because I have merely started a conversation. I don't have all the answers! Let's all continue this thread in the comments, on Twitter, on your blog. Today, and every day.