How to stop viewing accessibility as an extra-mile, and start integrating an empathy-driven process in software teams.

Rafaela Ferro
Feb 27 · 3 min read

In this series of blog posts, we’re going to analyse some common misconceptions about building accessible software. I’m addressing this because when accessibility is seen as a “nice to have”, it almost always ends up forgotten — and making inclusive software is becoming increasingly relevant as more products and services start running online.

So, with no further ado, the first myth:

#1 Only highly disabled people benefit from accessibility.

To address this point, we must first understand what a disability is, so we have a better notion of who it affects.

Disability: An illness, injury, or condition that makes it difficult for someone to do the things that other people do.

Types of disabilities

Permanent
These are the disabilities that always come to mind when we talk about accessibility. It involves blindness and low vision, muscular dystrophy, deafness, color blindness, paralysis, dyslexia, etc. We might be born with it, or gain it at some point in our life — maybe through an accident, or simply as our bodies get older. Bottom line: this category is for conditions we live with and don’t recover from.

Temporary
As mentioned above, we can gain a disability; but often we can recover from it. If we suffer an injury (let’s say you break your arm, or have a concussion, and so on), we have a temporary disability.

Situational
These “disabilities” have an origin outside our bodies. They’re usually created by the environment in which we’re using a certain technology, and we have all experienced this. For example: using your smartphone outside in a bright day, or trying to listen to audio in a very loud coffee shop, or even trying to text with your non-dominant hand only while carrying groceries on the other arm.


How do these relate? When we prepare our products to work for people with highly limiting disabilities, everyone benefits. If you account for users with color blindness, the good contrast in your app will be useful for people using their devices in a bright environment as well. Supporting keyboard interaction will enable users with limited motion, but power users will be highly satisfied too. The excuse “that’s not my target audience” becomes meaningless, because accessibility targets everyone.

Good accessibility always means better usability.

There’s also the idea that there are very few people living with a disability. However, the last WHO’s report on disability estimated 15% of the world population lives with some form of permanent disability (that’s more people than Internet Explorer users!). And here’s the catch: this estimate grew from 10% to 15% in just 40 years.

Why? Because anyone can gain a disability, and very likely will. Even if we’re lucky to go through life without any kind of accident, we all grow old — and as we age, we lose sight, we have less muscular control, our motion becomes more limited, we experience hearing and memory loss, etc. It’s the circle of life. So, that 5% growth is mainly due to population aging, and it will keep increasing. All these aging symptoms affect the way people interact with technology, so we — the ones building it — must ask ourselves: how will our products thrive if they’re not prepared to support our users?


Takeaways

1. Anyone can gain a disability, and very likely will.

2. When you build for accessibility, everyone benefits.

On the next posts, we’re going to talk about the role designers and developers have in building inclusive software. I’ll share some practical tips and good practices that you can easily use to improve your projects. Feel free to share your own experience and best tips!


I’m Rafaela, designer and front-end developer at Deemaze Software. We are a software agency creating products for web and mobile. Keep track of our work through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Also, here’s my Dribbble.

See you soon! 🌱

Deemaze Writing Wall

Software agency developing products for web and mobile.

Thanks to António Lima, João Oliveira, and Paulo Santos

Rafaela Ferro

Written by

Digital designer at Deemaze Software. Juicy details at rafaelaferro.com.

Deemaze Writing Wall

Software agency developing products for web and mobile.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade