About Shawn

Shawn Henry focuses her personal passion for accessibility on bringing together the needs of individuals and the goals of organizations in designing human-computer interfaces.

  • Shawn leads worldwide education and outreach promoting web accessibility for people with disabilities at the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), through MIT.
  • TAdER Project provides research and outreach to better understand users' needs to customize text for readability — specifically, people with low vision, dyslexia, and related conditions that impact reading, including older people.
  • Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design book, which is available free online, offers an approach for developing products that are more usable for everyone.
  • Shawn

[More bio info: Shawn Lawton Henry at W3C WAI and Bio blurbs and photos for conference programs, list of Publications.]

NOTE: Please be careful in referencing information from www.uiaccess.com and www.tader.info websites and e-mails as from the individual Shawn, not associated with her employer.

Pronouns/Gender/Sex: I'm female. Female since birth. "cisgender" = born female, "identify" as female. (though not sterotpyical in several ways) Female pronouns are important to me. And, I've started using 'Shawna' for some of my online accounts to help make more clear that I'm female.

Some basics

caricature of shawn hugging large carrots I'm all about embracing the carrots!

What I hope

In an interview (video online), I was asked: "Could you tell us your hope for web designers or developers like us in the world, not only in Japan? Even if it's not related to, not only specifying the accessibility issue. What do you hope?" Here's what I said:

I hope that web designers and developers would understand the importance of accessibility, and how when the Web is accessible it is amazingly empowering to individuals with disabilities, and also to society as a whole.

I hope that developers and designers would be very challenged in their work, and would see their work in developing the Web as exciting. And when they come upon a problem, to embrace the challenge and come up with a solution, and feel very rewarded by the solution.

I hope that web designers and developers would understand that they can change the world through their work. And that they would develop the Web so that they can use it and contribute to it now and in the future, whether or not they have a disability.

How I got into accessibility

I was also asked: "Could you tell us about yourself, for example, your background and current job?" Excerpts:

My educational background is in computer science and English, technical communications. My early jobs were in user interface design. I was working for a large organization at first and then a small organization, consulting to various companies...

Then I had some health problems. I began to have difficulty using the computer because of vision and physical problems. I didn't think I was going to be able to continue to work. Then I discovered accessibility and the Trace R&D Center.

And so I decided to do something about accessibility.

So my getting into accessibility was somewhat self serving at first. But even after I began to get better, I was very passionate about accessibility -- after I understood how important it is to peoples' lives.

...When the W3C WAI education and outreach position became available, I felt that was the best way for me to be able to contribute to the field of accessibility on a worldwide scale.

Misc tidbits