Is Accessibility only for users with disabilities? Not really.
When products are created with care and accessed, used, and understood to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of age, size, ability, or disability results in the best user experiences.
This blog post will cover what Accessibility is, how vital it is, the best practices, and the top tools to check the Accessibility of your interface.
What is Accessibility?
Accessibility enables people to perceive, navigate and interact with a product. There is a big misconception that Accessibility allows differently abled users to understand and interact with a product that initially was not created for them.
Accessibility can be circumstantial
When we think about Accessibility in UX, it is necessary to understand certain aspects. It should allow people to understand and interact with a product by opening up the required modes of interaction. It is about developing design solutions for the differently abled and people with certain temporary conditions.
Imagine walking in sunlight while looking at the map on your phone. The color palette of the map application should provide enough contrast for you to see it. This example is very situational. You may find yourself being disabled because the interface does not allow you to complete a task comfortably.
While creating a product, it is essential to take Accessibility into account in the design process. It may become hard to make last-minute changes to the polished designs to make them Accessible. Hence it is always recommended to consider it from the beginning.
Who benefits from Accessibility?
Accessibility delivers products that benefit everyone and improves the experience of interacting with the product for individuals with and without disabilities.
A well-designed product will enhance user experience not only for the general audience but also for differently-abled.
Accessibility + Usability
When Accessibility and Usability combine, they result in Universal Design. Typically, products are more catered to an average user. But when Accessibility and Usability are considered for everyone, it often also leads to universal design.
Importance of Accessibility for businesses
From a business perspective, Accessibility in UX leads to many positive effects:
- It drives more audience to the product and creates a better market reach.
- It connects the business with its audience.
- It shows brand sincerity, empathy, and thoughtfulness. In turn, it helps with brand positioning.
Best Practices for Accessibility
The primary Accessibility regulations in the United States are WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) and Section 508.
WCAG provides world-accepted standards for the Accessibility of websites and applications.
Section 508 represents a set of requirements that must be satisfied for governmental projects.
Designers and Businesses can take steps to create more accessible products. We have listed down some of the actions that can help you in the process:
1. Being mindful of the colors you use
- Using color as the only way to deliver information can result in added challenges for some people. For example, it is said that approximately 7.4% of Americans are color blind and find it difficult to distinguish between red and green.
- Using icons with text, thick borders, bold text, underlines, and italics in your designs can help you make the information more comprehensible for all.
- Interested in checking the WCAG color-contrast ratios in your design? You can reference these resources:
- Contrast app for Mac
- WebAIM Contrast Checker
2. Have you ever experienced something which looks washed out on screen?
- Sometimes it is because of the colors used. Many would find color text with low contrast backgrounds impossible to read, especially those with visual impairment. Contrast or lack of it between the text and the background can make things hard to read.
- Low contrast can affect individuals with color blindness. One way to fix it is by modifying the color so that the text and background ratio is at least 4.5:1 with certain exceptions.
3. Providing transcripts in audio and video media
- A transcript is a text that demonstrates the same information that is provided through speech or non-speech audio/video information.
- But if you are wondering whether or not your media requires a transcript, the answer is yes! It is essential to focus on a wide range of user needs to expand and reach a larger audience.
- Transcripts help individuals who are hard of hearing, have difficulty processing auditory information, or are unfamiliar with the form or language in which the content is being conveyed.
4. Labeling form fields
- Forms can often be overlooked while designing. Using the correct labels/ instructions in the form fields is very important. In the era of creating minimalistic designs, where form labels are removed for a “clean” design, it is essential to not ignore usability.
- Many individuals generally depend on form labels while navigating through the form interface. It is recommended to have a placeholder text or clearly defined form labels to communicate and help individuals interact with your product.
5. Ensuring interactive elements can be easily identified
- Some people use a keyboard to navigate the website, and it is crucial to make the functionality accessible through a mouse, keyboard, and voice-control systems.
- Users should be able to interact with all the interactive elements like links and buttons using the keyboard to ensure they have a clear idea of the state of the element- resting or focusing.
6. Ensuring your site is compliant
- While it does not guarantee the usability and experience of your product, 508 testing is recommended for all governmental projects to ensure your site is compliant.
7. Ensuring user's control and freedom
- One of the main features of a great user experience is providing your audience a control over the interface they are interacting with. It helps in correcting mistakes, returning to the previous state, or looking at the content at their own pace to fully understand it.
- Imagine looking through a website with a carousel on it. Accessibility in this scenario would be to provide visible controls to the audience to play and pause or see selection controls.
8. Including alternative text for images
- Individuals with low eyesight or the ones using screen readers require webpage images to have textual descriptions. These descriptions are usually known as Alternative Text that describes the image. WCAG recommends keeping the text lines up to 80 characters for sufficient information for the listeners to understand the context clearly.
Important resources for Accessibility
While designing for Accessibility, ensure that your personas include individuals with varying abilities. It can help you reach a larger audience and provide a delightful experience for everyone interacting with your product.
Here are some accessibility testing tools that can help you get started:
Let us make the world more Accessible with products that are not only impactful and intuitive but appeal to a wide range of individuals. If you want to make your products Accessible, we can help you with that!
Keep things accessible y'all!
Additional References for Accessibility
Accessibility Section: W3C
Accessibility Basics: Usability.gov
Berkeley Web Access
Accessibility in UX
UX Design and Accessibility
Universal Design and Accessibility