CUA of the Month – February, 2015

James Green
“Removing obstacles is what draws me to improving UX, and also to accessibility where the stakes are higher: the problems we’re solving often go beyond making it easier to do something to making it possible.”
James Green

Senior Director of Usability and Accessibility
Visa Inc.

The UX Heart of Accessibility

by Jim Garrett

It is rewarding to see when major companies not only work to improve usability for the majority of their users, but put forth the extra effort to give access and a quality user experience to their users with disabilities. Our Certified Usability Analyst of the Month, James Green, is leading that effort at Visa Inc. James is Senior Director of Usability and Accessibility on Visa’s Enterprise User Experience Team, the company’s in-house “agency” that provides UX services to projects across the company and globally.

What is your role at Visa?

While my group consists mainly of analysts, the team also has visual designers and front-end engineers, allowing us to provide a complete range of UX services. We all work very closely on projects, typically assigning a few staff to a cross-functional UX team that plugs into the various projects we support. While I am responsible for Usability and Accessibility at Visa and my focus is naturally in those areas, there are two distinct facets to my focus.

The first can be described as internal to my team: Providing leadership and subject matter expertise to projects we are working on.  In a given week I may line up work for the team and manage tasks while also facilitating a user test or providing accessibility consulting to a development team.

The second facet of my role could be seen as external to the team and also arguably more important: Institutionalizing UX at Visa. I spend a lot of time evangelizing and educating staff about usability and especially accessibility, a field that is unfortunately not well understood by many in the IT industry.

We have been fortunate to make a lot of great progress in both of those areas over the 9 years I’ve been here. In fact, we’ve reached two big milestones this month: as we speak I’m sitting in Visa’s brand new, first and only in-house Usability Lab, located in Visa’s Austin, Texas office. Going forward, the teams we support have access to a fully outfitted 3-room lab, complete with HD cameras, one-way mirrors, and user eye tracking. Not only will this allow far more projects to take advantage of user testing, but the lab will serve as a tangible symbol of Visa’s decision to put users first.

Our second milestone is about scaling an important capability for Visa. We are a few weeks from releasing a global accessibility methodology to Visa. We have a complete set of requirements for designers and developers that will produce WCAG 2.0 AA conformant code as well as a testing methodology to confirm conformance. We applied UX principles to the development of these tools - they are designed to be easily consumed by staff and painlessly plugged into their existing processes. All of these materials will be placed on our intranet in a searchable documentation website with illustrations, videos, code examples, and an online training module.

What is the difference between usability and accessibility?

Accessibility is simply usability for users who have disabilities. In usability, we work to reduce the mental, memory, visual, and motor effort asked of users. In accessibility, we deal with the same goals; our users may just have different and/or greater challenges in those areas. Additionally, many users with disabilities use tools (known collectively as Assistive Technology) that often rely on special code to provide users with equivalent information and functionality.

The most common use case that comes to mind when people think about accessibility is that of a blind user interacting with a website while using a screen reader.  A screen reader is a piece of assistive technology that converts a visual experience (e.g., text, forms, tables, images) into an auditory experience by reading the content (and context) shown onscreen aloud.  Now, blind users don’t just have it read every screen from top to bottom – that would take forever. They actually approach a page the same way a sighted user does – they start by deciding if they are on the right page (a good page title is important here), then they “look the page over” to get a feel of the content and structure by using the screen reader to bring up lists of key elements like content headings, landmark regions, links, etc. After this “skimming” they will typically jump to the part of the page they are interested in and begin listening to every word.

At this point, context becomes very important – for example, if they land on a form control they need to hear details like the label and if it is required or invalid, as well as any related helper text. Likewise, if they are in a table, they need to hear the table header cells read along with the data cells or they won’t be able to follow the table. Imagine looking at a table through a tiny hole in a piece of blank paper, seeing only one cell at a time. It wouldn’t make sense. There is specific code (not typically included by developers) that must be present for these types of context to be available.

Another big area is keyboard focus.  Try to go a day without using your mouse. You’ll quickly find that designers and developers often forget this use case. Mouse events that lack a corresponding keyboard event (or even the ability for keyboard focus) are common, and can easily lock users out of key functionality.

This type of behind-the-scenes coding takes up the lion’s share of accessibility work, though there is still a whole host of other considerations – color contrast, video captions, and warnings about timeouts, to name a few.

When did you take your CUA?

I took the CUA in 2004 and then the CXA in 2012. The CUA has helped tremendously over the years. In fact, in preparation for the opening of our new usability lab we had HFI come out and do a CUA training onsite. Most of our team, even the visual designers and the engineers, now have the certification. We can all speak the same language and now that we have this lab with three rooms that need staffing, they all have the requisite knowledge to chip in when needed. It has been really good for the team.

Where do you find the passion, the fulfillment in your work?

I am a problem solver at heart, constantly seeking to understand how things work so I can figure out how to improve them. This perspective applies to how I view almost everything, not just user interfaces, but physical products, processes, even relationships between people. I’m always thinking about the optimal scenario and the barriers that exist – how do we remove them and get to that ideal state? Obviously, this mindset is what draws me to usability and improving UX. This mindset also strongly draws me to accessibility, because the stakes are higher. The problems we’re solving often go beyond making it easier to do something to making it possible.

For thousands of years, many people with disabilities have been kept at the fringes of society, as outsiders who couldn’t participate in society. They just got support from society if they were lucky and less if they weren’t.

Thanks to technology now, many people with disabilities are finding that they are not only finally able to fully participate in society, but that they can truly contribute to society as well – and we all benefit immensely from it. My small efforts at removing barriers and spreading the word are helping make that happen. I get really excited about that.

CUA of the Month

Each month we highlight the successes and achievements of a different member of our CUA community. If you are a Certified Usability Analyst and would like to be considered for CUA of the Month recognition, please send a brief professional bio to

Privacy policy

Reviewed: 18 Mar 2014

This Privacy Policy governs the manner in which Human Factors International, Inc., an Iowa corporation ("HFI") collects, uses, maintains and discloses information collected from users (each, a "User") of its website and any derivative or affiliated websites on which this Privacy Policy is posted (collectively, the "Website"). HFI reserves the right, at its discretion, to change, modify, add or remove portions of this Privacy Policy at any time by posting such changes to this page. You understand that you have the affirmative obligation to check this Privacy Policy periodically for changes, and you hereby agree to periodically review this Privacy Policy for such changes. The continued use of the Website following the posting of changes to this Privacy Policy constitutes an acceptance of those changes.


HFI may use "cookies" or "web beacons" to track how Users use the Website. A cookie is a piece of software that a web server can store on Users’ PCs and use to identify Users should they visit the Website again. Users may adjust their web browser software if they do not wish to accept cookies. To withdraw your consent after accepting a cookie, delete the cookie from your computer.


HFI believes that every User should know how it utilizes the information collected from Users. The Website is not directed at children under 13 years of age, and HFI does not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from children under 13 years of age online. Please note that the Website may contain links to other websites. These linked sites may not be operated or controlled by HFI. HFI is not responsible for the privacy practices of these or any other websites, and you access these websites entirely at your own risk. HFI recommends that you review the privacy practices of any other websites that you choose to visit.

HFI is based, and this website is hosted, in the United States of America. If User is from the European Union or other regions of the world with laws governing data collection and use that may differ from U.S. law and User is registering an account on the Website, visiting the Website, purchasing products or services from HFI or the Website, or otherwise using the Website, please note that any personally identifiable information that User provides to HFI will be transferred to the United States. Any such personally identifiable information provided will be processed and stored in the United States by HFI or a service provider acting on its behalf. By providing your personally identifiable information, User hereby specifically and expressly consents to such transfer and processing and the uses and disclosures set forth herein.

In the course of its business, HFI may perform expert reviews, usability testing, and other consulting work where personal privacy is a concern. HFI believes in the importance of protecting personal information, and may use measures to provide this protection, including, but not limited to, using consent forms for participants or "dummy" test data.

The Information HFI Collects

Users browsing the Website without registering an account or affirmatively providing personally identifiable information to HFI do so anonymously. Otherwise, HFI may collect personally identifiable information from Users in a variety of ways. Personally identifiable information may include, without limitation, (i)contact data (such as a User’s name, mailing and e-mail addresses, and phone number); (ii)demographic data (such as a User’s zip code, age and income); (iii) financial information collected to process purchases made from HFI via the Website or otherwise (such as credit card, debit card or other payment information); (iv) other information requested during the account registration process; and (v) other information requested by our service vendors in order to provide their services. If a User communicates with HFI by e-mail or otherwise, posts messages to any forums, completes online forms, surveys or entries or otherwise interacts with or uses the features on the Website, any information provided in such communications may be collected by HFI. HFI may also collect information about how Users use the Website, for example, by tracking the number of unique views received by the pages of the Website, or the domains and IP addresses from which Users originate. While not all of the information that HFI collects from Users is personally identifiable, it may be associated with personally identifiable information that Users provide HFI through the Website or otherwise. HFI may provide ways that the User can opt out of receiving certain information from HFI. If the User opts out of certain services, User information may still be collected for those services to which the User elects to subscribe. For those elected services, this Privacy Policy will apply.

How HFI Uses Information

HFI may use personally identifiable information collected through the Website for the specific purposes for which the information was collected, to process purchases and sales of products or services offered via the Website if any, to contact Users regarding products and services offered by HFI, its parent, subsidiary and other related companies in order to otherwise to enhance Users’ experience with HFI. HFI may also use information collected through the Website for research regarding the effectiveness of the Website and the business planning, marketing, advertising and sales efforts of HFI. HFI does not sell any User information under any circumstances.

Disclosure of Information

HFI may disclose personally identifiable information collected from Users to its parent, subsidiary and other related companies to use the information for the purposes outlined above, as necessary to provide the services offered by HFI and to provide the Website itself, and for the specific purposes for which the information was collected. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information at the request of law enforcement or governmental agencies or in response to subpoenas, court orders or other legal process, to establish, protect or exercise HFI’s legal or other rights or to defend against a legal claim or as otherwise required or allowed by law. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information in order to protect the rights, property or safety of a User or any other person. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information to investigate or prevent a violation by User of any contractual or other relationship with HFI or the perpetration of any illegal or harmful activity. HFI may also disclose aggregate, anonymous data based on information collected from Users to investors and potential partners. Finally, HFI may disclose or transfer personally identifiable information collected from Users in connection with or in contemplation of a sale of its assets or business or a merger, consolidation or other reorganization of its business.

Personal Information as Provided by User

If a User includes such User’s personally identifiable information as part of the User posting to the Website, such information may be made available to any parties using the Website. HFI does not edit or otherwise remove such information from User information before it is posted on the Website. If a User does not wish to have such User’s personally identifiable information made available in this manner, such User must remove any such information before posting. HFI is not liable for any damages caused or incurred due to personally identifiable information made available in the foregoing manners. For example, a User posts on an HFI-administered forum would be considered Personal Information as provided by User and subject to the terms of this section.

Security of Information

Information about Users that is maintained on HFI’s systems or those of its service providers is protected using industry standard security measures. However, no security measures are perfect or impenetrable, and HFI cannot guarantee that the information submitted to, maintained on or transmitted from its systems will be completely secure. HFI is not responsible for the circumvention of any privacy settings or security measures relating to the Website by any Users or third parties.

Correcting, Updating, Accessing or Removing Personal Information

If a User’s personally identifiable information changes, or if a User no longer desires to receive non-account specific information from HFI, HFI will endeavor to provide a way to correct, update and/or remove that User’s previously-provided personal data. This can be done by emailing a request to HFI at Additionally, you may request access to the personally identifiable information as collected by HFI by sending a request to HFI as set forth above. Please note that in certain circumstances, HFI may not be able to completely remove a User’s information from its systems. For example, HFI may retain a User’s personal information for legitimate business purposes, if it may be necessary to prevent fraud or future abuse, for account recovery purposes, if required by law or as retained in HFI’s data backup systems or cached or archived pages. All retained personally identifiable information will continue to be subject to the terms of the Privacy Policy to which the User has previously agreed.

Contacting HFI

If you have any questions or comments about this Privacy Policy, you may contact HFI via any of the following methods:
Human Factors International, Inc.
PO Box 2020
1680 highway 1, STE 3600
Fairfield IA 52556
(800) 242-4480

Terms and Conditions for Public Training Courses

Reviewed: 18 Mar 2014

Cancellation of Course by HFI

HFI reserves the right to cancel any course up to 14 (fourteen) days prior to the first day of the course. Registrants will be promptly notified and will receive a full refund or be transferred to the equivalent class of their choice within a 12-month period. HFI is not responsible for travel expenses or any costs that may be incurred as a result of cancellations.

Cancellation of Course by Participants (All regions except India)

$100 processing fee if cancelling within two weeks of course start date.

Cancellation / Transfer by Participants (India)

4 Pack + Exam registration: Rs. 10,000 per participant processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the course (4 Pack-CUA/CXA) registration before three weeks from the course start date. No refund or carry forward of the course fees if cancelling or transferring the course registration within three weeks before the course start date.

Cancellation / Transfer by Participants (Online Courses)

$100 processing fee if cancelling within two weeks of course start date. No cancellations or refunds less than two weeks prior to the first course start date.

Individual Modules: Rs. 3,000 per participant ‘per module’ processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the course (any Individual HFI course) registration before three weeks from the course start date. No refund or carry forward of the course fees if cancelling or transferring the course registration within three weeks before the course start date.

Exam: Rs. 3,000 per participant processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the pre agreed CUA/CXA exam date before three weeks from the examination date. No refund or carry forward of the exam fees if requesting/cancelling or transferring the CUA/CXA exam within three weeks before the examination date.

No Recording Permitted

There will be no audio or video recording allowed in class. Students who have any disability that might affect their performance in this class are encouraged to speak with the instructor at the beginning of the class.

Course Materials Copyright

The course and training materials and all other handouts provided by HFI during the course are published, copyrighted works proprietary and owned exclusively by HFI. The course participant does not acquire title nor ownership rights in any of these materials. Further the course participant agrees not to reproduce, modify, and/or convert to electronic format (i.e., softcopy) any of the materials received from or provided by HFI. The materials provided in the class are for the sole use of the class participant. HFI does not provide the materials in electronic format to the participants in public or onsite courses.