Accessibility Design Introduction
Accessibility is a core component of human-centred design, placing all users at the centre of the design process. This enables our designs to be used by people with visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive disabilities.
It’s important that we don’t assume that every person using a product is able bodied. People with many different types and levels of ability work in every type environment, and use every kind of service, sometimes with the help of assistive technologies, sometimes without.
Accessible design accomplishes three things:
- Improves the lives of people with disabilities.
- Allows a wider audience or consumer base by increasing the number of users that can use your product.
- Avoids lawsuits or bad press.
The Internet has amazing potential to empower people with disabilities. However, it is our responsibility to commit to designing with accessibility in mind to avoid creating barriers to usability.
The following quote from Kat Holmes summarises the importance of inclusive design practices:
Imagine a playground full of only one kind of swing. A swing that requires you to be a certain height with two arms and two legs. The only people who will come to play are people who match this design, because the design welcomes them and no one else.And yet there are many different ways you can design an experience of swinging. You can adjust the shape and size of the seat. You can keep a person stationary and swing the environment around them. Participation doesn’t require a particular design. But a particular design can prohibit participation…. Each feature created by designers determines who can interact with an environment and who is left out.
This should be considered throughout every aspect of the design process.
- When planning how users will interact with and travel through the product, consider how you can diversify the methods of interaction to support people with different needs.
- Seek out potential points of exclusion (e.g., an instructional video) and create alternate ways to access the experience (e.g., a transcript and subtitles). These alternate interactions should be just as well designed as the primary content, and not just tacked on.
- Design visuals with contrast, size and cognitive load in mind.
- Use coding best practices to support assistive technologies.
- Regularly test your designs to ensure they are inclusive of all potential users.
- At all times, be aware of your personal biases and assumptions about who will be using your product and how.
Above all, inclusive design enables all users to participate equally, confidently and independently. Designing solutions for users with disabilities can also benefit a much broader audience. Video captions benefit users in environments where they cannot use audio. Simplified language and iconography provides an easier experience for users with English and a second language. Text-to-speech support benefits multi-taskers. Good design is design that breaks down barriers, rather than create them.
- The No. 1 thing you’re getting wrong about inclusive design - Kat Holmes for Fast Company
- Six Principles for Inclusive Design - Lillian Xiao for UX Planet
- WebAIM - a wealth of information on web accessibility
- WCAG 2.0 - WCAG2.0 - a high level overview of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
- WebAIM Australia laws - legislation around accessible web design
- WebAIM colour contrast checker - checks colour combinations and assesses whether it passes AA or AAA ratings