An expe­ri­ence ear­li­er this week estab­lished for me that elec­tron­ics man­u­fac­tures need a les­son in usabil­i­ty and acces­si­bil­i­ty. It also helped solid­i­fy my con­vic­tion to make my web­sites more acces­si­ble.

We rent­ed a Hel­lo Kit­ty DVD Mon­day for our chil­dren to watch. As usu­al, I turned on the TV, popped in the DVD and went to switch to “Game” mode, which allows the out­put from the DVD play­er to dis­play on the TV.

Noth­ing hap­pened.

I start­ed my trou­bleshoot­ing A/V prod­ucts process.

  1. Repeat­ed­ly press the but­ton
  2. Press ran­dom but­tons repeat­ed­ly
  3. Move clos­er to TV
  4. Repeat steps 1 – 3

The process put me no fur­ther ahead to deter­min­ing the prob­lem. This left me to think either the bat­ter­ies were dead or the TV was mal­func­tion­ing. Here is where things became frus­trat­ing.

My remote con­trol was not designed to include a bat­tery indi­ca­tor. My cell phone was designed with one. My Pock­et­PC was designed with one. My dig­i­tal cam­era was designed with one. Near­ly every elec­tron­ic device I own that runs on bat­ter­ies was designed to include a bat­tery indi­ca­tor to let me know when the bat­ter­ies are low. The remote con­trol was not. Why is this a prob­lem?

First, I had no fore­warn­ing there was a pow­er sup­ply issue with my remote con­trol. Had I known the bat­ter­ies were get­ting low, we could have bought some bat­ter­ies when we were out shop­ping ear­li­er that day.

Sec­ond­ly, with­out any fore­warn­ing, I am doomed to expe­ri­ence a bar­ri­er at the exact time I do not want it. I want to use the DVD, but because of this unfore­seen bar­ri­er, I can­not.

It is no dif­fer­ent from a wheel­chair-bound cus­tomer not being able to get past a store’s front step or a blind per­son not being able to read text on a web­site that is only avail­able in an image. As I want­ed to watch the DVD, both of these indi­vid­u­als also want some­thing. The wheel­chair-bound per­son would like to pur­chase some­thing from the store and the blind per­son wants infor­ma­tion from the web­site. Yet because of bar­ri­ers unfore­seen by busi­ness­es in the design process, the three of us can­not access the things we want.

This is only one part of the frus­trat­ing equa­tion.

If I am using my com­put­er and the mouse stops work­ing, I can usu­al­ly nav­i­gate through many appli­ca­tions with only my key­board. The soft­ware cre­ators designed it in a way that allowed more than one method of input.

Not so with the TV man­u­fac­tur­er. There is no “Game” but­ton on the TV. In fact, all I can do with the TV is turn it on or off, scroll through the chan­nels one at a time lin­ear­ly, bring up the set­tings menu and raise or low­er the vol­ume. Most of the fea­tures of the TV, how­ev­er, were designed to be acces­si­ble with only the remote con­trol. If the remote is not work­ing, then the TV is only par­tial­ly acces­si­ble.

Since I couldn’t check if there was a prob­lem with the TV—although some­one could argue giv­en what I’ve men­tioned that there was some­thing inher­ent­ly wrong with the TV—my only oth­er choice was to take the bat­ter­ies out of our phone (we had no oth­er AA bat­ter­ies in the house), put them in the remote, go back to the liv­ing room and try the remote again.

Luck­i­ly it worked. But did I have to expe­ri­ence all this frus­tra­tion just to find out my bat­ter­ies were dead? Is it any won­der why I sup­port acces­si­ble web­sites?

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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