In your role as website or mobile app designers, have you been taught to respect the needs of your web visitors? Do you know what those needs are?
Do you agonize over designing barriers to tasks completion by those who need support?
We may sometimes forget to include certain clues to show or guide what to do next or what we just did while interacting with a website or mobile app. For example, audio status messages are vital when you can’t see any visuals.
During my own career journey in web design and SEO, I realized the missing piece is the basic right to choose how to navigate our digital environment.
Accessibility as a design practice is simply a way to lend a hand so people with disabilities can complete the tasks they want to.
We are in the way. Design fads like parallax, animation, text over images, sliders and carousels, pop up modals, ads inserted into every nook and cranny of a page, images and videos that are useless to people who can’t see them and forms missing instructions for screen readers are a small sample of all the obstacles we toss at people when they arrive.
We’re terrible hosts.
Imagine manifesting a no hassle way of interacting with the web using any computer device. Inclusive design means we tested it, worked out the kinks, threw it in the air, beat it up and by golly it works upside down and from far away with just the sound of a voice.
I Can Do This Myself
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the USA recognizes that discrimination in any form is wrong but when it comes to the web, there is no legal consensus on whether or not people with disabilities are welcome to use it.
Someone in a wheelchair without full use of their hands may need assistive tech to check email, converse on social media, write a book or buy gifts from online stores. How rewarding it must be for developers who invent accessible solutions!
Millions of people have poor eyesight and may need help to complete tasks from mobile apps either by changing their device settings or by firing up an assist such as a screen reader that will announce content, links, describe images, instruct how to fill out form fields and sort through the maze of content to get to the desired parts.
Transcripts for deaf people bring the web world to those who can’t hear it. The use of transcripts for videos and podcasts is also a huge help for people who speed read and want to jump ahead to the parts that are relevant to them. Audio, such as text to voice, allows the ability to multitask. That benefits more people and supports options.
People struggling with memory and cognition conditions benefit from all sorts of design enhancements to help them with recall, wayfinding and comprehension. Experienced user experience web designers look for clues on user behavior and apply new patterns that boost not only pleasurable interaction but also conversions.
Inclusive Web Design is Accessible
Learning web accessibility is not for the faint of heart. It costs time and money to build accessible software or websites that don’t exclude people who have every right to access them.
It isn’t required to embrace user experiences that don’t exclude people. However, this is changing, both in the courts and public opinion.
Write your mission statement. Brands that welcome everyone to the table stand out as leaders. Invite all web visitors to use your digital product, whether it’s a simple blog, detailed ecommerce site or downloadable mobile app.
Write your accessibility statement. Sure, you may not have a perfectly coded website but you’re trying and showing you care about creating an inclusive experience. Be sure to include a way to contact you if there is an accessibility issue.
Provide opportunities for training employees, yourself, designers and developers. Human experience design shouldn’t be an afterthought when you are building web experiences. Waiting until launch, or marketing is too late and sets up opportunities for failure. Brand reputation that tanks out the gate may need time to recover.
Consider the risks of avoiding accessibility. If you don’t understand what they are, hire someone who can help you.
The person arriving to your website or downloading your mobile app is unique.
Say hello to everyone.