This past weekend, my family and I took the opportunity to go glamping (glamorous camping) with some friends. While a large part of me, the part that enjoyed backpacking and camping in the mountains in my younger days, thinks "glamping" is a little absurd, I have to admit that I enjoyed backing my car into a driveway and carrying our stuff to a sturdy, weather-proof tent that was already set up and came with a fire pit, a picnic table, room to play, and a few good spots for a hammock.
Permanent tent on a gravel plot in the woods. The tent has a covered deck area with two chairs and a welcome mat. Two stairs are shown at the foot of the deck for entry into the tent which is currently closed. The tent has nine ventilated windows, four of which are visible in this image.
I was also happy to see that the next site over was an accessible campsite so that disabled glampers would be able to enjoy the great outdoors as well. Initially, it looked like a great amount of thought was put into making the site accessible. The parking space for that plot was wider and long enough to accommodate vehicles that utilize wheelchair lifts and ramps, the entry to the tent was a long ramp with a reasonable incline, and the site had a wheelchair-accessible table.
Permanent tent on a gravel plot in the woods. The tent has a covered deck area with two chairs. A long ramp with a slight incline and guardrails on both sides is shown at the foot of the deck for entry into the tent which is currently closed. A firepit, a wheelchair-accessible picnic table, and part of the parking area for the site are also in view.
The site looked like a well-thought-out, accessible, inclusive space—and then we saw it.
The wheelchair-accessible picnic table from the campsite is shown surrounded by large wood beams. The image itself shows the beams surrounding three sides of the picnic table (the fourth side is blocked off completely as well but not visible in this picture). The area to get to the backside of the table for one of the two wheelchair-accessible spots would also be difficult to get to given the positioning of the table.
While the table itself is accessible in that it can accommodate wheelchairs, there are obstacles preventing wheelchair users from accessing the table. While the logs on the back and the right side may be necessary to prevent the raised seating area from eroding down the hill when a storm hits, the other two aren't necessary and obstruct anyone who uses a wheelchair from safely getting to the table on their own. The small space between the logs and the table would also make it difficult for a wheelchair user to get to the accessible seats.
The solution is simple enough, remove the front and/or left log or just cut an entry into one of them that is wide enough for a wheelchair to fit through. Ideally, the orientation of the tabletop would be flipped so the wheelchair user wouldn't have to squeeze in the narrow area between logs and the seats to get to their spot as well.
So, why bring this up on a blog where I talk about instructional design and learning experiences?
Because this is an easy mistake to make in our practice as well.
I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt here and assume that the logs weren't originally placed around the table (because the campsite my family stayed at didn't have them around our table) but were added later because the gravel around it was washing out in heavy rains. It's incredibly easy to get focused on an existing problem that we zoom in and forget about the larger picture or how an adjustment could impact accessibility.
Maybe you need to make an edit to the narration of a video, but you forget to adjust the SRT or VTT file. Perhaps an animation in that video needed to be adjusted, but you forgot to change the descriptive transcript as well. Maybe an image needed to be swapped out, but you forgot to adjust the alt text or indicate whether or not it should show up in the focus order.
Whatever the case may be, it's important to not lose sight of the big picture when making small adjustments.
The best way to avoid accidentally turning accessible experiences, whether it's an e-learning course or an incredible glamping site, into inaccessible or inequitable ones, is to run quality assurance after any changes are made.
Images included in this post are courtesy of Recreation.Gov