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Analysis & Design

Investing in accessibility – the sooner, the better

date: 25 May 2021
reading time: 5 min

The concept of accessibility is based on removing the existing barriers in products or services that could make it difficult for people with disabilities or senior users to access or use. An accessible site or service means that everyone can use them, regardless of their visual, motor, audio or cognitive ranges of ability, or their degree of familiarity with technology.

Supporting all groups of users – regardless of any types of disabilities that they may possess – is worth the investment, and not only because it can increase your potential customer base. There’s much more to it, and this should be considered from three different aspects:

  • Legal
    For example, in the US, all public services must comply with laws regarding accessibility, and a lawsuit may be expected if a public service is shown to discriminate against people based on their abilities. There have been a number of cases with service providers being put on the defence for violating accessibility laws.

  • Moral
    Accessibility is an internationally protected human right – no one should be put at a disadvantage simply because they have a disability; this pertains to both public and private services. Plus, on a basic human level, including people with disabilities in your business strategies is the right thing to do, since we’re all human beings.

  • Business
    Investing in accessibility improves your corporate image – it helps you build a positive reputation and positions companies as innovative and user-friendly. It’s also beneficial in terms of SEO.

To illustrate the scale of the problem of accessibility (and how serious it has become), we need to realise that – according to the WHO – 1 billion people all over the world currently possess a form of disability. This amounts to 15% of humanity, which is a significant percentage of the population, and should motivate all of us to integrate disability inclusion within our corporate strategies, and promote it within our internal and external environments.


So, how to improve accessibility?

Improving web accessibility these days is not that complicated – there are some pretty clear guidelines that you can follow, so you don’t have to grope around in the dark. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (approved as an international standard ISO/IEC 40500:2012) can provide you with a set of criteria to meet in order to make sure your service is friendly to all users.

There are several areas for designers to take under consideration:

  • Keyboard navigation – your site and the functionality of your content should be accessible from a keyboard.

  • Focus order – tabs should follow a common reading order, from left to right and top to bottom, like in a book.

  • Use of colour – an optimised contrast ratio should be used throughout your entire site or app. Plus, colours shouldn’t be the one and only method of conveying or differentiating information – they should be supported by texts or forms.

  • Content alternatives and facilitation – this should be implemented for text, images and videos, including: screen readers, large print, and the use of symbols, etc. (without losing content structure or information).

  • Content presentation – your content shouldn’t be presented in a way that is known to cause seizures; it should be understandable, easy to follow, and users should have enough time to read and use it.

This all adds up to the concept of inclusive design – a methodology that assumes learning from human diversity, adapting to it, and fighting exclusion based on disabilities.

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Effects of implementing accessibility

The benefits of investing in accessibility and betting on inclusive design are quite tangible:

  • Larger groups of people using the service
    Reducing the number of barriers that exclude people from using a service naturally expands its user group. This not only includes people with permanent disabilities but also users with temporary and situational disabilities. And this is a significant change because, for example, according to the research conducted by Microsoft, “In the United States, 26,000 people a year suffer from loss of upper extremities. But when we include people with temporary and situational impairments, the number is greater than 20M.” And when we consider this on a worldwide basis – the number should, of course, be multiplied.

  • Improved usability
    Improvements in accessibility also entail many benefits that can be enjoyed by users without any known disabilities. Optimised code makes a site or an app work faster, and a simplified layout is more readable and intuitive for everyone. Also, browser and mobile compatibility helps people navigate through your service or product, no matter what kind of browser or device they use.

  • Enhanced Search Engine Optimisation
    Less access barriers result in more time spent on your site – which, in turn, is considered an excellent sign for SEO by the Google algorithm. Plus, graphics and videos within a site – with additional text descriptions for assistive technologies (like screen readers) – make it easier to search, so the site automatically ranks higher in SERPs.


Conclusions

As a result of improving your web accessibility, your service/product will be available to literally everyone who might be interested in it — and also make it much easier to find in general, so it can finally serve its full purpose. Moreover, taking an “inclusive design approach” drives innovation within your business. For example, many companies leverage artificial intelligence to make user-web/app interactions more human-like. There is also a lot of new technology on the way, such as better voice recognition solutions, driverless cars, or image-processing systems.

So, if you want to learn more about how we can help you implement accessibility within your product, and how you can benefit from this – please contact us! Also, don’t forget to take a look at our accessibility audits (and other software audits) that you can leverage for even more added benefits.

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