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Accessibility in Design — Pt. 2 Action

Written by: John Freire, Product Designer, TribalScale

Smart phone screen showing the definition of the word design
Photo by Edho Pratama on Unsplash

Check out Part 1 here which explains the fundamentals of accessibility in design.

Moving forward from understanding, we then have the means to take action and accommodate for accessibility in our works. Under the context of universal accessible design, we can leverage some methodologies and standards to ensure that some grounds are covered in terms of “blanket accessibility”.

Following WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), we can jump into the accessibility discussion from quite a few angles. The main goal is making your designs accessible, but overall also:

  • Perceivable — providing the best means of presenting information through which text, media, alternative layouts (simpler) or background separation makes the content more simple to access, be it by reading, or listening.
  • Operable — ensuring that all functionalities are accessible through the keyboard, providing time for reading and usage of the content. Avoiding excessive animations that may cause discomfort, convulsions, or compete overall with the content itself. All the while assisting with navigation and system status visualization.
  • Comprehensible — elaborating clear and cohesive texts, predictable actions and error prevention.
  • Robust — maximizing the compatibility with available devices, past and present, including visual assistance (e-readers). Future-proofing components to always be readable/adjustable.

But above all, designs must be usable. As this is fundamental to assist not only impaired users but also to ensure that the whole experience is assertive, useful, operable, accessible and simply pleasant for all users.

On that note, one of the main tools that enable designers to promote this level of accessibility is the 10 Usability Heuristics by Jakob Nielsen.

Working with accessibility

Having accessible digital products is no longer a competitive edge, but a necessity which impacts a product’s direct success. Digital inclusivity is a legal standard in the EU, USA and Canada, as well as many other countries throughout the world. So it’s not only a nice-to-have, compliance is required by law. This legislation was put in place to remove technological barriers that limit digital access for those with accessibility needs.

Many SEO standards also weigh in factors of accessibility when it comes to search rankings. So not only does a website require good content, but it has to be presented in an accessible and user-friendly way.

In this series, I’ll outline a few strategies and recommendations that we can incorporate in making products accessible. Having these steps take place from inception, allows us to implement them more seamlessly, ensuring that accessibility is achieved without issues.

Learning locally

Try and have your team participate in meetups with professionals that are familiar with “thematic regions” so you can better understand your users and their possible needs. There are digital communities focused specifically on addressing the needs of different devices and platforms. Some groups may even be willing to be sourced to guarantee accessibility for other users.

Expanding your visual knowledge

This is where the considerations mentioned in the first part of this blog series (visual, motor, hearing, cognisant, socioeconomic, societal/cultural upbringing) come up. Keep them in mind as you establish personas and represent your users through your visuals.

Be attentive to detail here. For example, you can represent left-handed users and assure yourself that this characteristic will not interfere with the usability of your product. If needed, make the necessary visual adjustments to accommodate.

Considering unique user needs

Include users that may have difficulties within your outlined personas, research relevant usability tests to carry out, and reach out to groups with strong web presences for their input. Familiarize yourself with the accessibility configurations that are offered by the OS you’ll be working with. Test new technologies within these frameworks and simulate navigation/flow usage.

Empowering users through privacy and data security

Some users may need assistance conducting activities that rely on the input of private data, such as conducting payments or creating accounts. Make them feel comfortable by openly sharing what information is collected and how this information will be used in the future. Be transparent in regards to privacy options. Make these options clear and visible, as well as easy to find. Explain clearly the way data is used within the context of your product, and prompt them to share any feedback and clarify any underlying questions they may have.

Incorporating feedback

Be accepting of change. Users will tell you why and how they have issues with your product. As a professional of the digital age, you should be accepting of this feedback and develop the skill of interpreting feedback. This skill is especially important as feedback may not always come in the form of actionable items, therefore requiring careful analysis and consideration.

In the next article of this three-part series, we’ll go over some of the avenues of change that can be pursued when developing a product that caters to wider audiences.

Check out Part 3 here which dives deeper into implementing accessibility changes within your team.

John is a Product Designer here at TribalScale and is always eager to jump in with out-of-the-box solutions. John never shies away from bringing up the importance of good UX for stakeholders and always applies a problem-resolution methodology. Outside of work hours you can find him in the wild trying to balance his love for his dog and video-games.

TribalScale is a global innovation firm that helps enterprises adapt and thrive in the digital era. We transform teams and processes, build best-in-class digital products, and create disruptive startups. Learn more about us on our website. Connect with us on Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook!

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