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Summary: Ann Arbor’s World IA Day features a unique experience provided by local accessibility firm Deque: an Accessibility Empathy Lab.

A worldwide conference with a localized flavor: that’s the beauty of World IA Day (WIAD). In late February every year, more than 50 locations around the world host events where local information architects, user experience (UX) designers and others interested in improving the experience of websites gather to hear talks on a global theme. With global volunteers providing guidance, each event is run by volunteers who leverage their local connections to share skills and information with a broader audience. Each event ends up with its own spin—so WIAD in Atlanta will be different from the one in Singapore, but they are all united by a single theme.

Design for difference

headshot of Andrea Pellerito

Andrea Pellerito is a business analyst at The Understanding Group.

Ann Arbor WIAD volunteer and TUG business analyst Andrea Pellerito says that for this year’s theme, Design for Difference, the talks focus on accommodating disabilities you can see and differences you can’t see. “When you only consider information findable with your eyes, aren’t you missing something? The intersection between IA findability and accessibility should be teased out.” To help us understand what and whom we are designing for, Ann Arbor’s event will feature a unique experience provided by local accessibility firm Deque: an Accessibility Empathy Lab.

Andrea first encountered the Empathy Lab at a local Web Accessibility Meetup. When she found out this year’s theme, she thought the experience would be a perfect fit and extended an invitation. The Empathy Lab provides an opportunity for people to experience a website through the lens of different abilities, such as hearing impairments, visual difficulties and mobility challenges. The lab also mimics a cognitive disorder. Andrea explains, “it’s not specific to a sense but shows how it may slow down your performance. It’s a disability you can’t quite see.”

Something for everyone

In addition to the Empathy Lab, the conference features two keynotes and a variety of lightning talks. The talks range from the specific industry examples, to general conversations around how to approach designing for difference. The day is “really well set up to teach empathy—even though it’s an IA conference it will suit and appeal to UX designers with all specialities. That conversation is always important,” shared Andrea.

“This WIAD will be really approachable from all directions of UX, not just IA. It won’t be too niche: the talks will provide value to those who do IA all day, but also for any role in design.”

WIAD Ann Arbor 2019 will be held on Saturday, February 23 at the Ann Arbor District Library – Downtown from 9:30 AM to 1:45 PM. The event is free to attend with RSVP on Eventbrite. Attendees will also receive a code to receive $50.00 off registration for the Information Architecture Conference to be held this March in Orlando, FL.

Can’t attend? Follow the day’s events on Twitter. Globally @WorldIADay and Ann Arbor @WIAD_AnnArbor

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