21 Jun 2018

By talking accessibility we marginalise the discussion to focus on disability. The truth is that making your digital services accessible benefits everybody.

Accessibility… Wait! Don’t stop reading! This post isn’t a preach on how you should design your digital platforms to be more friendly to the disabled. This post is a hard-nosed article about maximising your potential audience and your profits at the same time. I promise you, this is worth a read.

I know accessibility has fallen out of favour. There was a time when accessibility was a hot topic, and non more so than in the world of e-commerce. A time when the leading retailer's worked so hard to ensure the accessibility of their websites, by ensuring that every page was screen reader friendly is just one example.

We have the wrong view of accessibility

When we think of the term web accessibility, we tend to think about the disabled. In fact, if we are honest, we immediately think of blind people and how they may use our digital services. Of course, disability covers a lot more than just the blind. There are many visual impairments beyond complete blindness and other sensory disabilities such as deafness. Then there are motor skill issues and cognitive disabilities.

Accessibility is not just about those registered disabled either, we all have ‘disabilities’ at various times and these can also be environmental in nature, the chances are you suffer from one right now; I know I do.

Did you know that you have disabilities too?

I myself am farsighted, which means I need to wear contact lenses or glasses for my work and this also means I have come to despise sites or apps with tiny text, tightly packed links or limited contrast. I know some that have given up on some websites or apps entirely owing to this factor, people don’t want to have to put on reading glasses every time they use their mobile device.

As a designer I am often presented with clear accessibility issues with the suggestions of some of our clients who don't possess the knowledge required in designing for digital.

“Can we have our KPIs in pink text on a red background please?”
“Not if you want users to actually read it!!!”

“We would like our products (which are mostly grey in colour) to be presented as cutouts on a similar grey background”

Examples of inaccessible colour choices and UI elements

Mobile has made accessibility crucial again

The explosion of mobile devices has once again highlighted the importance of accessibility. Smaller screens have further emphasised the need for large text that is well contrasted. Then there are the issues around touch screens. Tightly packed menus and links aren’t just a challenge for somebody with motor control issues. Anybody using a touchscreen will struggle with these too.

But the most significant challenge mobile has brought is the locations in which we use them. We use them in noisy environments which creates challenges around hearing and concentration, we also use them outdoors which leads to visual impairment as we struggle with screen glare. I suspect that you all get the point that, when using our mobile devices, we all face accessibility issues at various times in our lives.

Now is the time to rethink accessibility

The word accessibility just carries too much baggage with it, as it seems limited to catering to the disabled. Usability in its complete sense should always encompass accessibility.

Robin Christopherson, the head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet use different words. He talks about ‘Inclusive Design’. I love this term because it gets to the heart of what we should be trying to achieve. Ideally you want as many people as possible to use your digital services with the minimum of physical or cognitive effort, that just makes good business sense. This also brings to mind Steve Krug’s insights into web usability in his book ‘Don’t make me think’.

Don’t turn away revenue

We all have legal and moral obligations to make our digital services accessible. But designing and building for those with a disability can be a tough business decision. You have to balance the extra cost of developing an accessible service with the additional revenue disabled users will bring in.

But the decision becomes a no-brainer when you realise what accessibility means. That accessibility is about building for those over 45 or those with a temporary impairment. Why wouldn't you build with accessibility in mind? It is just bad business.

The spending power of households with a disabled person equates to over £200 billion in the UK alone. Add to that the considerable spending power of the elderly and the numbers become compelling. And that isn't even including those with temporary impairments or those sitting in the sun on the phone!

At the iCentric Agency our area of expertise in helping you to realise that your digital customers will likely have a disability of some degree at one time or another could prove to be profitable. We can work with you to evaluate and address exactly how you could be turning away more than 1 in 5 of your customers. We aim to provide you with the tools to drive your digital strategy to its next level of success.

Why not get in touch to start the conversation.