Accessibility is not just a useful design practice for the disabled: it is here to create a better experience for all kinds of users.
A famous saying goes, “Accessibility is solved at the design stage.”
This entails that for developers and designers to make their websites accessible, they have to start at the beginning of the process. The accessible design caters to the needs of the user, whether they are within our demographic or outside it. The idea of “accessible design” is not complex or overrated but a requirement for people with disabilities and distinct backgrounds. For designers to understand these needs and tune their websites accordingly is how we craft better experiences for all kinds of people. Even though our standards regarding accessibility and its application have changed over the years, we are nowhere near the end goal. The accessible and inclusive design needs to cater to the user experience (UX) and well as user interfaces (UI). But how is this possible and what is its significance?
The History of Accessibility and its Application
It was in the early 1990s that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was introduced which enforced new standards for accessibility. The act was put into effect to workplaces and the public sphere to make sure that everyone was being treated fairly. But it is not yet applicable to the creative field as of yet, especially web design. The internet may be accessible to all kinds of people but it is not truly a commodity if a number of people have difficulties in using it. Designers and developers all over the world are working to come up with a system that holds all websites to a standard where all users are catered to and helped.
What is Inclusive Design?
According to the World Bank stats, there are around 1 billion people in the world with one disability or another. This makes up 15% of the world’s population and amongst these individuals, there are millions of people affected by severe disabilities. This is the main reason why inclusive design is so important and why it needs to be applied to all creative outlets.
There is no set definition of exclusive design, in fact, it refers mostly to a way of thinking. It is a means of creating products digitally which is allowing a diverse group of people to have greater access. The idea of accessibility and reach in design is wider than we care to assume and the principle of inclusion is often disregarded by designers and artists.
The Inclusion Principle
There can be actual impact made on the overall user experience if the inclusion principle is taken into account. By using universal design and applying it to the creation of a site, a range of users all across the globe can be reached and their needs are addressed more directly. The inclusion principle is encouraging designers to take into account the uniqueness of different people in regards to their lifestyle and beliefs. The principle lifts the limitations of designers being restricted to a simple one user group and helps create interfaces all users will be able to enjoy and benefit from. This also refers to “universality” which is another principle that helps designers find common ground with their audiences.
Universal Design: Something for Everyone
Even though the internet was made for everyone, this has not been the case as we know it. The benefits of an online world should be that everyone has access to it and everyone can use it. This includes the elderly and disabled, who are often left out of the process. Companies and businesses will only be able to generate profits if they adopt more inclusive mindsets for all product creations. This leads to a competitive edge and advantage, which is always good for business. The concept of universal design is to listen and provide for all communities, without any discrimination.
UI and UX in Inclusive Web Design
Designers are using usability processes and techniques to take on the accessibility issue with their sites. The UX and UI components of inclusivity and acceptance are gradually becoming a part of common practices and are being integrated into all kinds of website designs. Some key aspects which are taken into account are:
- Having a communal understanding of how disabled people use the internet
- Involving disabled users in the design process and taking their advice
- Involving marginalized groups in evaluating whether a site is accessible or not before it is made live.
The Focus of Web Accessibility
There are certain types of disabilities and impairments which designers are focusing on to achieve universal web accessibility:
- Visual Impairment
For those with visual issues, alternative text can be used to describe pictures and contrasting colors for better readability.
- Hearing Impairment
Audio and video transcripts are being used for people who have trouble hearing properly.
- Physical Disabilities
Using a mouse or keyboard is hard for people with apparent physical disabilities, which is why considerations need to be made for them.
How to Make Your Web Design More Inclusive and Accessible
Think About Color Blindness
For color-blind users, designers need to consider how they will adjust their sites so readability is easier. They tend to avoid putting small white text on darker backgrounds or something similar because of how hard it will be to read consistently. Colorblind people do not see all colors and this is why it can be more difficult for them to recognize some colors over others and they have a harder time than the average user. When selecting colors, you can update your palettes to make sure that your choices are visible to everyone and also look good together.
Use Alternative Text for Images
If you do not provide alternative text for your images and the information is not accessible then this will put your site at a great disadvantage. For people who cannot see or use screen readers for web pages, using alt text is a great way to allow people more access to the visual image. This helps search engines which cannot see images as well as caters to more users.
Apply Understandable Links
Screen readers are used in many sites today for a proper explanation of links to anchor texts. This needs to be understandable and concise so that everyone can access them.
Choosing Contrast Ratios
When you are designing a site for different environments, you need to choose the right contract ratios. Surveys have shown that around 51.3 percent of all Internet traffic comes from mobile devices. So users who visit your site may be in different settings and need comprehension to understand your site and business. If the interface you have provided lacks in contrast, they will not be able to find anything.
Audio and Voice Commands
Voice control and commands are improving overall user experiences in a massive way. Accessible design is part of these newfound control methods, as seen in Siri and Alexa, and for people with visual impairments, they work quite well. Audio commands and screen readers allow easy multitasking and are more accessible to all kinds of people anywhere in the world.
Responsive design is a broad term but for accessibility, it is mostly geared towards content rendering and giving visitors an optimal experience when they load your site. If a page is responsive to the user’s demands, it is automatically more accessible.
When it comes to web design and the user experience, less is always more. Keeping the layout of your site minimal and visible is the only thing you need to do to avoid overcrowded screens. When users are pleased with your page there will be lesser bounce rates and they will feel more accepted as a customer base.
What Inclusive Web Design Does for Businesses
Business owners do not want to exclude any potential clients from finding their products and services. This is where inclusive design is good for entrepreneurial growth. It was found that 20% of people rely on inclusive web design and logos design, otherwise, they turn away from a brand. Businesses benefit greatly from the usability of a site, especially those who are looking for a more diverse target audience.
When businesses go out of their way to design permanent solutions for disabled users, it gives more to the average customer as well. People with arm injuries will be able to use interfaces that only need one hand to be operated and this will also help people who do not have all of their upper extremities. This careful consideration could help around 21 million people in the US alone. That means that there is a customer base just waiting to be unveiled and businesses can spread their roots even more.
The bottom line is, the more interactive and accessible your site is, the better the user experience it will provide. More and more people from all backgrounds will be able to navigate all kinds of sites in different capacities. As such, web designers should incorporate more accessible features in their process to create online platforms for everybody.
Sarah Jay works for Logonado as a logo design Australia specialist. She has experience of more than a decade that has helped him immensely in this field. She is also passionate about social media and leveraging its power to increase a company’s reach. She loves to write about both these topics exhaustively.