In the current era of pervasive technology, where digital solutions play a significant role in our daily lives, prioritizing the creation of inclusive and accessible products and experiences has become crucial. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 1.3 billion people, or 16% of the world’s population, experience significant disabilities. That means 1 in 6 individuals faces accessibility challenges.
Accessibility in user experience design promotes inclusivity by ensuring that individuals with diverse abilities can fully participate in and derive value from digital products and services. This approach leads to the creation of products that are not only accessible but also enjoyable and usable by a diverse range of individuals. By making accessibility a priority, companies meet their ethical and legal responsibilities and gain access to a broad and diverse user base, opening new market opportunities for potential growth and success.
Inclusive design also stimulates innovation by encouraging designers to break free from conventional solutions. When designers consider a broader spectrum of user perspectives, they are more inclined to generate innovative and imaginative concepts that bring benefits to all users. This results in groundbreaking solutions and enhanced user experiences.
Many companies have recognized the importance of accessibility and have taken steps to make their products and experiences more inclusive. While Apple, Google, and Microsoft have been industry leaders in this regard, there are other notable players who have also joined the ranks.
Netflix, for instance, is one of the leading streaming platforms that has demonstrated a commitment to accessibility by implementing various features and initiatives to ensure an inclusive user experience for individuals with disabilities. Netflix offers closed captioning and subtitles, audio descriptions, and settings that can be customized to suit individual preferences better. The company has also started producing original content that not only highlights diverse narratives and characters with disabilities but also raises awareness about disability-related issues.
Airbnb has made significant progress in promoting accessibility. They have introduced accessible filters and listings, empowering individuals to find suitable accommodations that meet their specific accessibility needs. Airbnb provides educational resources for hosts, collaborates with organizations focused on accessibility and disability advocacy, and invests in research and development to enhance accessibility. By prioritizing inclusive design and fostering collaborative efforts, Airbnb aims to create a more accessible and inclusive travel ecosystem.
Spotify, the popular music streaming platform, has also taken significant steps to prioritize accessibility in its applications and services. They offer features such as text resizing and high contrast options, integration with screen readers for individuals with visual impairments, and keyboard accessibility. Spotify demonstrates an ongoing commitment to accessibility through continuous updates and refinements based on user feedback and industry best practices. By embracing inclusivity, Spotify aims to create an accessible platform that caters to the diverse needs of its user base.
By incorporating accessible design principles, companies not only fulfil their moral obligations but also unlock the potential for innovation and growth while positively impacting the lives of individuals with disabilities.
Checklist for good accessible design
Consider this checklist for good accessible design to ensure inclusivity in digital products and services:
- Text Alternatives: Provide alternative text descriptions for images.
- Keyboard Accessibility: Ensure all functionality can be accessed and operated using a keyboard alone.
- Colour Contrast: Use sufficient colour contrast for readability.
- Clear Navigation: Create clear and intuitive navigation pathways.
- Closed Captioning and Transcripts: Include captions for videos and provide transcripts for audio content.
- Form Accessibility: Ensure forms are properly labelled with clear instructions and error validation.
- Responsive Design: Optimize the design for various devices and screen sizes.
- Consistent Layout and Structure: Maintain a consistent layout and organization of content.
- Scalable Fonts: Allow users to resize text for better readability.
- User Testing and Feedback: Conduct usability testing and gather feedback from users with diverse abilities.
It is good practice to evaluate your designs against industry standards. The most common standard for accessibility for the Web is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and it is a common requirement for websites and web applications to conform to a particular level of the WCAG standard. More information about WCAG can be found here: https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/glance/
It is also good practice to test your product against accessibility standards. If you are on the Web, Google Chrome has an excellent free tool, Lighthouse, to test your alignment to accessibility standards. You can learn more about Lighthouse here: https://developer.chrome.com/docs/lighthouse/accessibility/
In conclusion, the importance of accessibility in user experience design cannot be overstated. It not only ensures equal access for individuals with disabilities but also opens new opportunities for companies to reach a wider audience. Companies like Netflix, Airbnb, and Spotify serve as excellent examples of organizations that have embraced accessibility and are actively working towards creating inclusive products and experiences. By prioritizing accessibility and following the checklist for good accessible design, companies can make a positive impact, foster innovation, and contribute to a more inclusive digital landscape.