Accessibility – What is it?
Accessibility is a concept for the design of a product or service that can be used by everybody. Accessibility in UX is a core thought in principles of universal design to aid differently-abled people so that UX designers can come up with better designs. Therefore, Many of the products we use today are designed to serve all inherent users anyway.
|Estimated 1.17 Billion people around the world experience some form of disability (WHO).|
Currently, 15% of the world’s population, i.e. over 1 billion people experience some form of disability, out of which, one-fifth of the current global total, i.e. somewhere between 110 million to 190 million folks, likely to have some form of significant disabilities. Accessibility in UX design is the right path to choose as it often benefits all users. That’s because accessibility in UX design that help differently-abled people often help other people as well. For example, video captions or subtitles were initially introduced to help people with auditory impairment, but today it is utilised by everyone. When UX designer creates a product or service for all, it can be utilised as a source of comfort and convenience.
Designing for accessibility
UX designers possess the power to create product or service that accommodates everyone regardless of their ability or circumstances. The great thing about accessibility in UX design is that it gives everyone a better experience. Designing for accessibility means to include the requirements of all users. It covers everyone starting from the target group, including differently-abled folks, multicultural folks and even the folks who are outside the target demographic. Recognising their needs is the answer to crafting more accessible experiences.
As for accessibility in UX design in term of an organisation: it is simple to recognise that accessible websites are –
- are SEO friendly,
- have faster download times,
- reach a bigger audience,
- have better search results,
- always have better usability.
An organisation must highlight both tangible and intangible benefits of accessibility in UX design within an operational landscape. Organisations that integrate accessibility are thought of as innovative and inclusive enterprises with confident brand messaging. When accessibility in UX design becomes a part of strategic planning, organisations reflect successful integration in our connected world of engagement, academia and commerce.
Accessibility Design guidelines
Accessibility in UX design enables differently-abled people to observe, comprehend, operate, communicate, and contribute. But in a world where developers build a design as reflected by the UX designer can cause differently-abled people to have trouble using a product. These guidelines of accessibility in UX design mentioned below are also a part of the UX accessibility checklist that covers the major things that makes a product or service to be design-ready:
Accessibility is an innovative concept.
Accessibility in UX design introduces a set of parameters to incorporate in the design. These design constraints allow one to explore new ideas leading to better products and services for all users.
Colours are not the only visual means.
Please remember that there are people in this world who have difficulty distinguishing between two colours. So the solution is to figure out acceptable ways to make a UI component visually accessible. When it comes to text, one could use thick borders, italics, bold text or even underlines. There are infinite options, but one rule is not to abuse colour.
Balance contrast between text and background
UX Designers who have exercised this have realised that they prefer higher contrast designs as displaying text using the minimum contrast does not diminish the value of the product or service. The ideal ratio of contrast between text and background should be 4.5:1.
Provide visual focus indication
The problem with many websites or apps is that the focus indicators are mainly absent. Try visiting a website on your phone or computer. To navigate through the page, one would either have to scroll down or press Tab repeatedly. Does the page have any glitches? Have you noticed any visual focus indicator during navigation? Now consider the effect this has on someone who only uses an older phone or keyboard to interact.
Avoid a component identity crisis.
There are so many times when UI components are integrated based on one device. It causes accessibility issues as assistive technology do not communicate the identity and operation of these confusing components. There is a guide on developing an accessible variant of design patterns that an app or a website commonly uses.
Accessible app design
As mentioned above, roughly 15% of the world’s population experience some form of disability. It reflects that if the UX designer does not use accessibility in UX design to create experiences, products or services, they’re miss on reaching out a large chunk of the society. I previously wrote a blog on designing an app, so I am not going to talk about it here. However, I am sharing a few tips that can help an individual or a group come up with an accessible app design if followed diligently:
Devising perceivable content
The design of the app or website is likely to contain valuable content. But it is only useful when the users know about its existence. Therefore, it is imperative to use more than just colour to show information. It is better to make the content perceivable in various ways.
Multiple ways of navigation
Multiple users communicate with a website in multiple ways. For instance, users with physical disabilities will operate websites using keyboard commands only. And not all websites operate in the same way. So one should reconsider giving users alternative ways to navigate, granting them to access more easily.
UX designers must ensure that the design is accessible, so they test it on multiple browsers. They also have to ensure that the design is compatible with assistive technologies. That way, differently-abled people using assistive tools can concentrate on their energies on their needs.
As the UX designer uses accessibility in UX design, they must also use various tools to determine how to further it. They hardly wait till the end to conduct tests; instead, they do them every step of the way, so that they don’t design an app or website that might not work for some users.
Accessibility design principles
When UX designers use accessibility in UX design, there are only limited resources that make it easy for UX designers to understand. However, certain accessibility design principles can be integrated to get ahead of the situation:
Use explicit ALT texts for images, hyperlinks, videos etc.
Write descriptive and clear page titles. One can also use dark text on a light background or vice versa.
Links and Navigation
Write detailed text links that allow the user to understand what they are clicking on and not just click here!
Avoid bright colours and colour sequences that are known to create problems for colourblind folks.
Utilise the following assistive technologies within the design:
- On-screen keyboards navigated with a trackball
- assistive touch
- Voice recognition
- Screen readers
- Eye-tracking software
Accessibility best practices
Now that we have talked enough about accessibility in UX design, we also need to talk about its best practices. Remember, accessibility best practices are just best practices overall like alternate navigational ways, manageable interfaces, and jazz. I have mentioned some of those best practices below for clarity:
Flawless execution of the fundamentals
Start with a solid UI Design, as it would benefit everyone, along with consistent navigation. Avoiding problems like navigation inconsistency or cluttered screens can help improve the design for visually-impaired people.
Allow keyboard navigation for web design.
Make sure to mandate keyboard navigation and hotkey shortcuts for differently-abled and power users. Have a look at the table of keyboard shortcuts on Wikipedia about the norms for keyboard control.
Set text clarity
A crucial problem for visually-impaired users is text clarity. Therefore, UX designers take every step to improve readability and legibility. They use these easy-to-apply techniques to overcome such issues:
- Keep the body text above 16 pixels.
- Keep the spacing between lines at least 25%.
- Allow font resizing to improve readability for every user.
Do not depend on the colour.
Colour-blindness affects roughly 10% of the population. While colour code effectively communicates functionality, let us not forget labels to describe crucial functions. If designers doubt their design for the visually-impaired, they can use a black-and-white filter to look at it.
Follow the accessibility checklist.
How accessible is the app or website? One can always get clarity on the accessibility in UX design through UX accessibility checklist. It could be more than just accessibility design guidelines, but ways to design a better UX.
When it comes to accessibility in UX design, it is the UX designer’s responsibility to overcome the issue. They know to make technology usable to all users regardless of their abilities, education, or location. While it might be super hard to cover all bases at times, the efforts a UX designer puts in to influence all users can be advantageous. Just remember, accessibility is excellent for UX design.