The whole point of technology is to make our lives easier. It helps us save time and effort so we can focus on what’s really important in life rather than on the mundane tasks we need to complete. Because of accessible design, which is a subset of universal design, people who are disabled can now potentially enjoy a level of convenience that is similar to that of the rest of the population. However, when the typical Web site is three times less useful for people with disabilities, these differences become all the more crucial.
People with disabilities face social exclusion, and apathetic communities send the message that their difficulties are their own. This is not how caring communities operate. Nor does widespread apathy encourage the creation of inclusive, user-friendly designs. While it could be difficult to completely eliminate barriers because of the specific needs of people with particular disabilities, there is definitely room for improvement in terms of making the Internet more user friendly for those with impairments.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 15% of the global population is impaired in some way or another. Therefore, we could potentially reach more clients by making our Web sites and applications more user friendly to the disabled. You would never intentionally alienate 15% of your potential customers, but that is exactly what happens when UX designers disregard accessibility.
Some people mistakenly believe that accessible design restricts user agency and results in drab, unappealing designs. In reality, an accessible design improves aesthetics, functionality, Web-page load times, and the overall user experience.
The Ten Factors
When designing an accessible user experience, keep the following ten factors in mind.
1. Making Labeling Visible
A user with a screen reader does not have access to the same visual signals as sighted users do—unless form fields are properly labeled. It may be difficult for these users to determine the appropriate information to provide in a given form field. Each form field requires an informative label that is clearly visible and legible. For example, a form that stores a person’s name should either have a field with the label Full Name or be split into two fields labeled First Name and Last Name.
2. Streamlining a Web Site’s Structure and Overall Flow
Section headings help people who use screen readers to get around online. If your Web site uses headings—h1, h2, h3, and so on—properly and strategically, its content will be well organized and easy for screen readers to process. Separate display from structure by utilizing CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and always use headings in their proper sequence. Create a new CSS class when designing your content rather than using a heading only for its aesthetic value.
3. Making Web Sites Web Friendly
Despite how well thought out, attractive, and user friendly your Web site’s layout may be, it won’t deliver maximal value if it is not compatible with the Web. It is crucial that your Web designers be familiar with meta tags, alt tags, and search-engine optimization (SEO) and know how to ensure that your site displays properly across all major browsers. Make sure that your Web designers are up to snuff on all aspects of design that affect your site’s visibility in search engines, as well as how the site looks to visitors.
4. Focusing on Faster Load Times
When you’re doing UX research online, nothing is more frustrating than waiting for pages to load. The problem of slow page-load times might cause customers to turn away from your site entirely. However, if you put in the time and effort to test your site before releasing it to the public, you can identify and address any page loading–time problems before your site goes live. After launch, assessing your Web site’s page-loading speeds on a regular basis could help you retain more visitors and improve your users’ overall experience. With fast page-loading speeds, customers can quickly get the information they need. But, if users don't get what they expect from your site, they’ll go elsewhere.
5. Creating Clear Calls to Action
Including calls to action on your Web site encourages visitors to contact your company. By providing a little friendly encouragement to your visitors—such as saying “Contact us immediately!”—you can demonstrate that your company values its customers and wants to build rapport with them. It is crucial that calls to action (CTAs) correspond with visitors’ current degree of interest in your business. Encourage people to sign up for your email newsletter if they are new to your brand. In such cases, people might appreciate your brand’s loyalty rewards program. Create a call to action for whatever it is that you want people to do on each page of your site.
6. Using Tables Only for Tabular Data, Not for Layout
Users who rely on a screen reader typically find the use of tables for layout to be cumbersome. A screen reader’s announcement that there is a table with X numbers of columns and rows is distracting to users. It’s also possible that a screen reader might read text out of a page’s intended sequence. Don’t use tables to design a Web page's layout. Instead, rely on CSS to control the display of the content on your site’s pages.
7. Optimizing Your Web Site
Top-notch Web sites are optimized for search engines, enabling people to easily locate their content when doing a search. What use is a Web site if no one visits it? Even if you’ve created the most insightful and engaging content online, designed a stunning Web site, or discovered the answer to a common issue, it’s useless if no one can find it.
8. Avoiding Using Color Alone in Communicating Meaning
Although it’s true that color is a powerful means of communication, it should not be the only mode of communicating the meaning of an on-screen element. Use color to distinguish UI elements, but also provide some means of identification that is not based on the use of color. Examples include labeling the sections of graphs or putting a red asterisk next to required form fields.
9. Providing FAQs and Chatbots
It is important to devise a well-thought-out chatbot strategy and a collection of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) before you begin constructing your chatbot. Assuming you have an idea of what the bot’s capabilities should be, you must consider how and when consumers will engage with it. The usability of your chatbot’s user interface depends on its appearance and how well users can navigate it. There is a wide variety of bot designs.
10. Defining Alt Text for Images
Users of screen readers should not miss out on any of the information that your Web site presents simply because they cannot see any of the visuals. The proper inclusion of alternative (alt) text ensures that they can read descriptions of all visual content. This is particularly crucial for wholly visual representations of information such as infographics. You should capture the purpose of an image in its alt text. Plus, if the image incorporates text, include that content in the alt text as well.
The only time when it might be acceptable to omit alt text is when an image’s purpose is merely decorative and it provides no substantive information. In this situation, you can leave the alt-text property blank to avoid distracting the users of screen readers.
Designing for Cognitive Disabilities
In addition to thinking about people with vision and hearing deficits when designing user interfaces, you must consider those with cognitive or neurological impairments, including conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, learning difficulties, and epilepsy.
When designing for people with cognitive disabilities, use plain language, consistent link labels, an obviously hierarchical structure, and flexible timing for any timed activities. If you’re going to implement a search function, be sure that it can handle misspellings. Incorporating these features makes your product easier to use for people with different cognitive capacities.
Certain types of content could trigger an epileptic seizure. Fortunately, there are standards you can follow to make your site safer for everyone. Content that flashes too frequently—more than three times per second—is an example of a typical trigger. Plus, if you’re presenting flashing elements, red is never a good choice.
Designing for Motor Disabilities
Your customer base might include people who have motor disabilities such as reduced movement or tremors that result from birth defects, an accident, or a stroke. Alternative keyboards and software that supports voice commands are two examples of assistive technologies that many users with motor disabilities can use.
For the benefit of individuals who have motor impairments, make sure that users can navigate and manipulate your user interface and content using a keyboard, which should enable them to perform all the functions and activities that your Web site supports.
Ensuring Other Forms of Accessibility
Accessibility issues aren’t limited to people who have physical impairments. There are a number of ways in which the user’s environment could negatively impact a product’s usefulness. Sleep deprivation, being underground, having too much or too little light, slow data transfers, or just being in a crowded or noisy area are all examples of situations that might impede your users’ performance.
By addressing all the potential issues of user impairment—both permanent and temporary—you can achieve universal design, enabling all users to successfully interact with your site or product, regardless of the environment in which they are using it.
In today’s world, everyone should have the same opportunities to make use of and benefit from the conveniences that modern technology provides to users. By making a commitment to creating accessible Web sites and applications, you can help advance equality and improve key performance indicators for people with disabilities. Make accessibility a top concern when you’re developing a digital product or doing a redesign, and consult design professionals who are experts in accessible design.
Shreya is an aspiring digital marketer who has a growth mindset and is always open to learning. Since she graduated from Thakur, receiving a Bachelor’s in business management, she has worked for several firms. At present, she is associated with one of the leading design and digital marketing agencies in India, 3 Minds Digital. In her free time, she paints, explores, travels, hikes, and cycles. Read More