Why everyone benefits from accessibility
When people think of "accessibility" the first thing that comes to mind is often wheelchair users who need ramps to get into a building, for example. But there is also accessibility in the digital world. What does it encompass? Why should your digital products also be accessible, and what do you and your company have to consider? You will learn about it in this article.
But let’s start from the beginning: An accessible environment can be used by all people, including those with impairments, without additional assistance. The environment includes the real world on the one hand, but also the digital world. Due to digitalization, this is where most people spend their time every day. This is the reason why you should also especially ensure not to exclude anyone in this area. Because people with impairments cannot or do not always want to rely on their fellow human beings to help them. There is not always someone available to read the timetable in the train app to the blind person, to help senior citizens operate their smartphones, or to provide a mobile hotspot if the person's own data volume is not sufficient to retrieve important information. Thanks to accessibility, everyone can participate in life independently.
Barriers are versatile – but so are solutions
The examples above show: Digital barriers occur
in many different forms. They do not always result from physical impairments
such as blindness, motor deficits or presbyopia. It can also be situational
circumstances that affect each of us almost every day: Have you ever tried to
read something on your smartphone in bright sunlight? Or have you tried to load
a website on a train ride?
These circumstances include, for example, an old smartphone that is no longer supported for app updates. But noisy environments can also prevent users from using digital products properly. This is especially the case when videos or sound recordings are required for use.
Furthermore, inexperienced users such as senior citizens often have problems using digital products. For them, apps and websites can be rather less intuitive than for younger people. You can avoid such obstacles already when designing your products.
Good reasons for removing obstacles
So, why should you focus on accessibility in your projects? It is
quite simple: Approximately 30% of the population has at least one
permanent impairment. In addition, there are temporary restrictions such
as construction noise or injuries. Should you just forego this large
number of potential users? Rather not. Otherwise, a lot of potential
will be lost, as many people will not be able to use your products.
Dissatisfaction with your company would be the result. In addition, by offering accessibility services, you set a good example for others, which has a positive effect on your corporate image.
Legislators have also understood that obstacles must be removed: From 2025, the Accessibility Strengthening Act (BSFG) will oblige all providers of online services to ensure accessibility. From this date at the latest, online stores in particular must be accessible to everybody.
How to make your products accessible
There are a number of things to consider when designing a product to be accessible – at every stage of product development. Maybe you offer a workshop at your company that gives everyone involved in the product development process a feeling for what accessibility means? This way, you can make sure that your team knows the important points.
In the following, we will give you five tips to keep in mind when it comes to concept, design and programming:
Before you design your product, think about who will ultimately use it and the characteristics and capabilities of the target audience. Personas are helpful. They are fictional people who represent your target audience. With personas, you can better put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. They will help you detect and eliminate many barriers in advance. Make sure that your personas cover a wide range of different skills.
Alternative forms of playback
Play back content in different media formats (for example, subtitles for videos). This means that deaf people, on the one hand, but also people who are restricted for a short time due to a loud background noise, can still benefit from the offers. Conversely, it also makes sense that you explain visual content in language – for example, through captions or audio commentaries, so that blind people are excluded.
Pay attention to contrasts
People with visual impairments often have a hard time reading text that barely stands out against the background in terms of color. This can also be the case for users who use an app in bright sunlight. Also note that there are color vision deficiencies, such as red-green deficiencies. Adjust your color choices accordingly and make sure everything can easily be seen. There are also appropriate tools available for this, with which you can test your product for this purpose. As examples, we can recommend WCAG Contrast Checker (Firefox add-on), TPGi CCA (native Windows/Mac) and Stark (Sketch plugin).
In the case of downloadable content, it is important to make it smaller so that users can download it even at low broadband speeds (for example, on the train) and so that it does not consume too much storage space on the end device.
To allow users with older devices to use your product, program it so that the code is backwards compatible. This means that no one is excluded who does not have the latest smartphone, for example.
Would you like to get more tips?
The World Wide Web Consortium body (W3C) gives you detailed guidelines to follow when designing your product. The editors continually adapt the guide in line with technical progress and keep it up to date.
Conclusion: Accessibility means ease of use
Various circumstances have a limiting effect on
the use of software, apps or websites. Each of us can find himself or herself
in a situation where he or she cannot use digital products as usual – either
permanently or temporarily. We are all the more grateful when these are
accessible. Eventually, all users benefit from accessibility. It leads to a
high ease of use and more satisfaction with your product.
Your product should now become accessible as well? We will be happy to support you!
Whether it's online marketing, event organization or writing - Svenja shapes UID's communication with the Corporate Communications team. After completing her master's degree, she has been part of the team in Ludwigsburg since 2022.
- UID News: Why digitalization does not work without sustainability
- UID News: 6 Rs – Six principles for sustainable product development
- Beyond UX: For a sustainable future