The UX Toolbox - Accessibility

23 May 2018 - Ed Chandler

Tools on a bench demonstrating the UX toolbox

An Inclusive Approach to Accessibility

Accessibility is all about creating products and services that can be utilised by the widest possible audience, allowing for any impairments or differences in ability. This is not exclusively about ensuring that users with disabilities can make use of websites and apps: Accessibility challenges can range from the subtle (e.g. colour blindness) to the significant (e.g. complete loss of sight), and from temporary (e.g. broken arm) to the permanent (e.g. loss of limb). They can also impact all aspects of our services, not just those involving a screen. By understanding the challenges and designing in a way that includes all users, products and services are opened up to the widest possible audience, delivering commercial, legal and ethical benefits for a business.

The UK alone there are approximately 14 million disabled people, many of whom are very prolific online. Almost 20% of working adults in the UK have some form of disability. Ensuring your products and services are accessible to all not only opens up this market but also ensures you fulfil your duty under the Equality Act (2010) in the UK and other disability requirements around the world. The original vision of the Web was to make information available to everyone regardless of disability. Embracing this philosophy demonstrates an inclusive and ethical approach to business.

Adopting an inclusive approach

Adopting an inclusive approach takes the guesswork out of accessibility. By bringing together key business stakeholders, delivery teams, accessibility experts and end users, a sustainable inclusive design practice can be developed that ensures accessible products and services on an ongoing basis. Although all steps in this approach are recommended, any accessibility work is going to help in moving an organisation closer to being usable by all customers.

The steps are:

  1. Inclusive design strategy
  2. Audit and gap analysis
  3. User testing
  4. Training & development

Let’s look at these in turn.

1. Inclusive design strategy

The aim of an inclusive design strategy is to embed accessibility practice into your business processes so that accessibility becomes part of the “business as usual” approach rather than a stand-alone and more expensive initiative. The strategy explores at the vision guiding the inclusive design process (the “why”), the activities that need to be undertaken in order to deliver the vision (the “how”), and the teams that will be responsible for the delivery (the “who”).

When User Vision’s accessibility experts work with clients to develop an inclusive design strategy, we bring in stakeholders from across the organisation, from senior leadership down, undertaking a series of collaborative workshops to explore and drive out the strategy.

2. Audit and gap analysis

Accessibility audits evaluate products and services using various means, from automated accessibility tools through to manual code checks and using assistive technology such as screen readers, magnifiers and adaptive switches. Using these various methods helps identify the issues, describe who will be affected by them and devise the best solutions, helping organisations to achieve their accessibility goals, and complying with the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 and internal organisational guidelines.

3. User testing

Accessibility is not just about creating accessible code, but rather ensuring that products and services and usable by all users, irrespective of any disabilities they may have. No matter how well you comply with technical guidelines, testing with people who have various disabilities always provides the most useful insights and ensures the site, software or mobile app is truly inclusive.

The process largely follows the same approach as usability testing, but incorporates the use of various assistive technologies. When the team at User Vision undertake accessibility testing, they draw from extensive experience and a diverse database of users to test with a variety of physical and cognitive impairments, providing the widest possible assessment, as shown in our work for Emirates, Student Loans Company, and Sainsbury's Bank.

4. Training & development

The final part of the inclusive approach to accessibility is to ensure that teams have the knowledge and skills to create accessible products and services from the outset, rather than relying on an ongoing build > audit > test > fix cycle.

When delivering this type of training we recognise that the responsibility does not sit solely with one group. We therefore offer training courses and mentoring programs aimed at various internal audiences, including managers, designers, developers and testers.

What next?

To find out more about User Vision’s accessibility services and how we can help to embed an inclusive design strategy into your organisation, give us a call on 0131 225 0850 or drop us an email with your enquiry.

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