ADA Compliency

Curry Kenworthy curry at
Fri May 29 07:38:07 EDT 2020

Assistive tech is a wonderful thing, and yet even when that "compliancy" 
is achieved, the effort is doomed to fall short of real-world needs for 
many people.

That's because the "compliancy" designers tend to think in 
all-or-nothing ideals - and the subset of opinions and studies popular 
in their social/professional cliques - not addressing the reality of 
actual ability ranges in the population. Meanwhile standard UI designers 
tend to throw out some really good ideas. Sometimes people are involved 
in great works, yet still CLUELESS about things that would help a lot of 
real people.

For example I have a neurological/muscular disease that impairs fine 
movement and deforms the hand shape and ability a bit. My hands now look 
like ghost of Christmas past or grim reaper hands. In the past they 
looked almost normal but the movement was already impaired. You don't 
want these hands. I drop things a lot.

Both the nerves and muscles are damaged. That affects using the mouse - 
not a huge effect, but I click a few pixels off-target sometimes. 
Especially since I also have to keep the mouse on a fairly responsive 
movement setting to avoid tiring my arm throughout the day. I'm very 
comfortable using the mouse if set up correctly.

So the old Mac OS had the window Close box on the OPPOSITE side as the 
resize and minimize. That reduced by a large percentage the number of 
misclicks that I had with any important consequences. That was a good 
feature based on actual research and/or logical thinking. It helped me 
achieve more and mess up less.

But Mac OS X threw that and other good things right out the window, in 
favor of "lickable" colored circles side by side. Just like Windows, but 
crammed together into a smaller area that was even more prone to 
misclicks. So Mac was no longer a better interface for me. I switched to 
Windows for my main work, and that helped save energy and improve 
accuracy. That's just one example of many.

And when it came to mobile, Apple made a giant list of HIGs to enforce 
on all software - except for their own software, of course. They broke 
their own rules when they felt like it, and their mobile UI is harder 
for me to use as a result.

Their rules are arbitrary with selective enforcement. And their rules 
(both mobile and desktop) actually sometimes IMPEDE rather than promote 
making UI designs to help people with handicaps and the elderly. Plus 
the rules change based on touchy-feely trends, like the hat fashions of 

I'm talking about Apple because they are the movers and shakers that 
directed where we are now. Others (MS, Google) largely followed or went 
in a similar direction.

The herd (including the elite producer herd) mostly thinks binary about 
abilities - either you can use a mouse or you can't. But it's not true. 
I can use a mouse pretty darn well, but I have to be careful about 
misclicks. (And sometimes accidental double-clicks that were intended as 

Thank goodness we do have some comfort adjustments such as mouse 
sensitivity and double-click time, etc. That's smart. But when it comes 
to "accessibility" the old binary thinking kicks in and the options and 
design are often pretty retarded, and only realistic for a smaller 
subset of the portion of our population that has some type of impairment.

Thankfully they may be focusing on the most heavily impaired, so that's 
good to at least help some people, but even then, I've had some 
experience with those and when I see "compliancy" I tend to shake my 
head. (And worry about the future as my own impairments grow.) Ideals 
and cliques/trends vs reality....

What we often need is some SMART, to use that word as a noun the way 
Andy Griffith did. UI needs to be smart. Standards can be good, but when 
a group starts making standards or guidelines, they often design it 
partly dumb/bad, and inflict as much harm as good. It could be so much 
better. Desktop and mobile.

It's the same with physical products. I can't open Amazon's 
"frustration-free" packaging even with pliers. Whoever designed and 
approved that one was seriously out of touch with reality - a total 
farce. I can open a regular taped box easily with a cutter. Similar 
results happen sometimes in software, when good efforts go bad. If only 
more of these efforts could be compliant AND smart!

Society needs to mature enough to reality that there is a pretty wide 
range of ability. I can do things on a computer (with a mouse) that 
would amaze many people, yet I have those misclicks and double-clicks to 
watch out for.

I can (or could) do a wide range of voices/accents, which most people 
can't do, yet I've had several periods in life (including right now 
after COVID for many weeks and ongoing) when I can only say a few words 
without getting out of breath. I've had to cancel meetings, and am 
getting set up to make instructional videos WITHOUT talking.

I can hear and see quite well and I catch many proofreading errors that 
others miss and can spot mistakes in code instantly sometimes (one 
client calls it my superpower!) yet my eyes can't tolerate the UI "dark 
mode" that's trending. I am a great listener (another superpower) yet 
can't make out the words quite as well when listening as most people do, 
especially for song lyrics or speeches/TV shows. For those I like to 
turn on CC just in case.

Ability ranges....

Best wishes,

Curry K.

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