As the digital space continues to expand and new ways to interact with it undergoing a permanent state of development, inclusive design and accessible design are often neglected. October is internationally recognised as World Mental Health Awareness month with the objective of not only educating the public about mental health but also reducing the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness are often subjected to. While designing a website or app won’t completely ensure the proper inclusion of diverse groups, it’s helpful to take steps in the right direction.
Follow along with this article as we explore different ways to ensure your website’s design is accessible to everyone, including users who are differently abled.
What is ‘Accessible Design’?
In short, accessible design is making your website or product available to as many people as possible. This includes people who are differently abled and may use assistive technologies to access your content.
There are many different types of disabilities that can make it difficult for someone to access web content. For example, someone who is blind might use a screen reader to navigate a website. Someone who is deaf might need closed captioning on videos. And someone with a motor impairment might need special controls to interact with your site.
Making your site accessible benefits, not just those who are differently abled, but also everyone else. For example, closed captioning can be helpful for people who are trying to watch a video in a noisy environment. Motor impairments can also make it difficult to use a mouse, so designing your site to be keyboard accessible can be helpful for everyone, not just those with impairments.
Why does this matter?
Designing for people who are differently abled is one of the most important, but often overlooked, aspects of creating an inclusive website or app. By ensuring that your design is accessible, you can make sure that everyone can use and enjoy your site or app, regardless of their abilities.
There are many different types of disabilities that can impact someone’s ability to use a website or app. Some common examples include visual impairments, hearing impairments, motor impairments, and cognitive impairments. Each of these can make it difficult or even impossible for someone to use a site or app that isn’t designed with accessibility in mind.
That’s why it’s so important to make sure that your design is accessible from the start.
Making your site accessible is important for two main reasons. First, it’s the right thing to do. Everyone deserves equal access to information and content on the web. But secondly, it can have a big impact on your traffic. In fact, the Nielsen Norman Group’s eye-tracking research has found that people who use screen readers read web pages three times faster than other users. And they visit twice as many pages than most users — and they remember more of what they’ve read.
What are Some Examples of A Disability?
There are many different types of disabilities that can make it difficult for someone to access the internet or use technology. Some common examples of disabilities include:
- Visual impairments, such as blindness or low vision
- Hearing impairments, such as deafness or being hard of hearing
- Mobility impairments, such as being wheelchair-bound or having limited dexterity
- Cognitive impairments, such as dyslexia, ADHD, or autism
Creating a website or application that is accessible to all users, regardless of their disability, is crucial in order to ensure that everyone can take advantage of the resources and information available online. By taking into account the needs of those who are differently abled, you can make sure that your website or application is user-friendly and inclusive for everyone.
How does Accessible Design Add Value to Web Design?
Accessible design has been one of the most important aspects in the web design industry for years. This is nothing new. It has been a growing concern for businesses and organisations to improve their website’s accessibility for people who are differently abled.
Several studies have found that accessible websites can have a profound economic impact. For example, a 2012 study by the University of Michigan found that online businesses could increase their revenue by up to $12 billion dollars per year if they made their sites more accessible to users who are differently abled.
There are many different ways to make a website more accessible, but some common methods include adding alt text to images, using descriptive links, and increasing the font size. However, it is important to note that accessible design is not just about making a website usable for people who are differently abled — it is also about making it easier for everyone to use.
In fact, many of the same design principles that make a website more accessible for people who are differently abled can also make it more user-friendly for everyone else. For example, increasing the font size can make a website easier to read for everyone, not just those with vision impairments.
Making a website more accessible can therefore have a wide-ranging positive impact, both for people who are differently abled and for those without.
Key Principles for Accessible Design
There are a few key principles that you should keep in mind when creating an accessible design:
- Provide alternate means of access:
- People who are differently abled should be able to access all the same content and features as everyone else. However, they may need to do so in a different way. For example, someone who is blind might need to use a screen reader to access the text on your site. Someone who is deaf might need closed captioning on videos. Think about all the different ways someone might need to access your content, and make sure that those alternate means of access are provided.
- Provide cues through non-visual programming:
- When we’re writing CSS and HTML, it’s easy to forget that visual properties such as colours or fonts can impact a site’s accessibility. Using colours alone will often not be enough to let someone who is deaf access the features on your site; they will also need other cues such as ascending and descending order of size or boldness of the text on a page. Additionally, just because some formatting might work for you doesn’t mean that those formats provide any sort of clue about what is clickable or typeable by default. Browser preference settings could make an underline appear completely different than you expect—even though CSS doesn’t support underline in any other case. Many other web design workarounds need to be used to try and present text as clickable without making it case-specific.
- Accommodate users with cognitive disabilities:
- Many online users struggle with conditions such as dyslexia, autism, CVA and others. A great way to ensure that users who fit this profile are accommodated is to apply design techniques that highlight essential elements on a web page that allows the user to focus more easily on these areas of content.
The Challenges of Accessible Design
One challenge of accessible design is that it can be difficult to create a digital product that is usable by everyone. This is because people who are differently abled have different needs. For example, a person who is blind may need a screen reader, while a person who is deaf may need closed captioning. Creating an accessible product means taking these different needs into account and designing a product that can be used by as many people as possible.
Another challenge of accessible design is that it can be time-consuming and expensive to create an accessible product. This is because it often requires specialised tools and expertise. For example, adding closed captioning to a video can be time-consuming, and hiring an expert to test a website for accessibility issues can be expensive. However, the benefits of accessible design are worth the investment, as it can help you reach a wider audience and create a more inclusive online experience.
Web accessibility is about making sure that everyone can use the web, regardless of any physical or mental disabilities they may have. It’s a fundamental part of design and something that should be considered from the start when creating any kind of website or digital product. By applying and practising accessible design techniques, you’re not only making the web a better place for everyone, but you’re also opening up your site or product to a whole new audience.
By working with Experience Design and User Experience experts like WritersHand Studios, you can create a website that, not only improves your overall user and brand experience for your website but also creates a digital space that is truly inclusive across the abled and differently-abled spectrum.