Connecting and Building: Welcome to Our Secure Usability and Accessibility Lab

OTF is excited to announce the revamp of our Secure Usability and Accessibility Lab (formerly called “Usability Lab”) and share lessons learned from our community-led consultation and evaluation, which informed…
Wed, 2021-12-08 14:36


In November 2015, OTF partnered with Simply Secure to begin offering usability audits for open-source circumvention and digital security tools. The audits aimed to recognise and solve usability challenges that hampered adoption of these tools in environments where they are needed most.

After consulting with the OTF community, the Usability Lab expanded its resources through three additional partnerships in March 2018, providing more types of usability support to critical tools.

Lessons Learned

We are proud of the progress the community has made over these past six years—illustrated by both the increased adoption of digital security and circumvention tools around the globe, as well as the embrace of usability best practices within major and relatively well-resourced tools.

Over this time we have learned some important lessons which inform our approach:

– We value the expertise within our community to inform our support resources.

– As an experimental lab, we learn from previous iterations.

– We are only safe from repression when the most vulnerable are safe from repression: we want to dedicate more resources to accessibility, as part of a concentrated community effort to improve the a11y of internet freedom tools—cementing accessibility as a necessary practice instead of an afterthought.

– Privacy-preserving user research is an important prerequisite for usability.

Secure Usability and Accessibility Lab Scope

Open source software projects aim to help people around the world – such as activists, journalists, and everyday citizens – to communicate with better privacy and security. However, many of these software development teams are in need of assistance to make tools that are truly usable and accessible in various contexts across diverse communities. Lack of usability and accessibility results in slow adoption of these technologies and increases the gap between tech makers and users. Additionally, misunderstandings of tool functionalities can potentially lead to a false sense of privacy and security.

OTF’s Secure Usability and Accessibility Lab offers assistance to Internet freedom and digital security tools, helping to recognise and solve usability challenges that hamper their adoption in repressive contexts. We partner with service providers to provide the following services as an in-kind resource to OTF-funded projects and other Internet freedom technologies:

– Secure Usability and Accessibility Coaching.

– Secure Usability and Accessibility Consultation.

– Secure Usability and Accessibility Audits.

Our experienced service providers

– A11y Lab

– Plaintext Design

– SimplySecure

– Okthanks

– Ura Design

Please visit the Secure Usability and Accessibility Lab page to learn more about these providers and the scope of their services, as well as how to contact them.

If you’re a community member, usability expert, tool developer, or funder interested in the Secure Usability and Accessibility Lab’s work, don’t hesitate to reach out to Ramy Raoof <[email protected]>.

Knowledge Sharing Moving Forward

To help advance all communities and accumulate practical knowledge, the outputs of all coaching, consultation, and audits will be publicly documented .

I would like to take this opportunity to appreciate and thank my former colleague Tara Tarakiyee for the incredible work they have done towards the internet freedom community and to enhance OTF’s work on secure usability and accessibility.