The future of your digital product is inclusive
You can wait for the future of inclusivity to come to you or you can do the future that is inclusive for all. In our digitalized world we are dealing with digital products on a daily basis, no matter what age we are or what physical or cognitive disabilities we might have, we still need to take care of our tasks and errands with digital services in order to survive.
Accessibility not only makes products and services equal for all disabilities, it also improves the quality of life for all humans in general by reducing the mental workload and making digital services more intuitive.
Improving accessibility of your digital service is not only improving the experience for those with disabilities, but it improves the experience for all users. Today´s cognitive load is huge for all of us, no matter our background. Increasingly all services and tasks are digitised and therefore it requires a lot of our attention and mental work in the digital world. Especially for those who are constantly dealing with different digital solutions throughout the day. But to achieve the status of accessibility, does not automatically guarantee that the solution is easy or enjoyable to use.
As an example of accessibility, let's look at a parent who works in an office with their laptop
Their kids have hobbies and go to school and daycare. Not only do they deal with several different work related interfaces during the day, all in which have a different kind of user logic and architecture, some are more intuitive and some are just absolutely terrible to use (the ones every office worker avoids at all costs if possible, we all know instantly what these interfaces are!), but they log in in several school, daycare and hobby apps too during the day to communicate with teachers, coaches, inform about absences and mark down important events. They stay in contact with their family and friends through messaging apps, and are in dozens of group chats with other parents of their children's class, sports groups of their own and their kids, with work colleagues and all charity and community work they do to support schools and sports teams. In addition these parents also schedule doctors appointments, manages bank, insurance, investment accounts, pays bills and shops for clothes, food and all basic necessities online in between of being emotionally and mindfully available for their friends, family and co-workers. Quite a combo, isn't it? Well, let's add in dyslexia, colour blindness, mental disorder or a physical disability.
How does it sound now?
For this reason, accessibility not only makes products and services equal for all disabilities, it also improves the quality of life for all humans in general by reducing the mental workload and making digital services more intuitive. In general, a bad experience for an average user is usually much worse for someone with disabilities.
Accessibility is not an isolated project, it is a process
Accessibility is teamwork between designers, developers, copywriters and content creators, everyone must work together following the same principles and guidelines to achieve an accessible end product.
Accessible design basically equals how usable your digital service or web page is. It is really easy for users to quit using your solution due to bad experience.
Accessible design basically equals how usable your digital service or web page is. It is really easy for users to quit using your solution due to bad experience. Hence making sure ease of use and intuitivity, especially considering users who are impaired or disabled, are the foundation for creating accessible designs. Accessibility should evolve through iterations together with your solution, learning from user behaviour, collecting feedback from real users with disabilities, and recognizing new needs and responding to those needs accordingly.
The World Wide Web consortium (W3C) developed a series of accessibility standards, known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1 and WCAG 2.0). The standard makes sure the web content is more accessible to people with a wide variety of disabilities. The standard is broadly broken down into four principles:
- Perceivable: Users must be able to perceive it in some way, using one or more of their senses
- Operable: Users must be able to control UI elements (e.g. buttons must be clickable in some way — mouse, keyboard, voice command, etc.).
- Understandable: The content must be understandable to its users, e.g. clear language and text structure.
- Robust: The content must be developed using well-adopted web standards that will work across different browsers, now and in the future.
Each of these different principles has a success rating of either A, AA, or AAA.
An A rating is the minimum requirement and AAA is the star standard of accessibility on the site.
Although it might seem like a lot of work, accessibility is much easier than you may think.
Here are a few simple actions you can take to make sure your solution is more accessible and intuitive:
- Hierarchy- Type hierarchy and site content hierarchy: prioritised content, make your message clear
- Visual presentation of text - avoid large text areas, instead reiterate narrow text blocks (WCAG recommendation is 80 characters on each line)
- Colour contrast - make sure the contrast ratio between background and foreground colour is accessible
- Alt text - make sure screen readers can describe your images clearly
- Text as image - avoid creating images using text only at all costs
- Content - avoid using jargon and unusual words, make sure the content is as simple as possible
- Navigation - use consistent navigation and UI elements, make sure your solution is predictable
- Indications - make sure that selection focus states and errors are clearly defined and work also in grayscale
- Animations - Avoid using flashing animations
- Gestures - make sure all content is accessible using simple gestures, don't hide stuff behind complex gestures
To check the status of your product or web page, for example Chrome web store offers extensions for accessibility testing and insights for designers and developers. There are also themes and text to speech extensions available for web browsing. Also Chrome and other browsers too have built in features for more accessible browsing.
Below are also a couple of good tools to map any accessibility issues:
- AXE extension to browser. AXE checklist
- WAWE browser extension for evaluation of accessibility issues.
- A good tool to simulate color blindness.
Inclusivity is no more an option to thrive in the competition of the most enjoyable user experience, it is an essential part of it. Whenever we can reduce the stress and cognitive load from end users, we are able to find true success in exceptional user experiences that bring value and a feeling of belonging to all of the users no matter if they have disabilities.