Web accessibility is a legal and social imperative that is gaining traction among brands across markets worldwide. However, compliance standards remain undefined, and many businesses worry about the cost and effort of complying with accessibility standards, as well as the risk of losing the visual appeal of their website or app design.
Due to these brands’ concerns, many individuals currently living with disabilities are not being considered in the initial phases of web design. Instead, (in only some cases) sites and apps are retrofitted to include accessibility. What many brands do not fully understand is that an accessible site or app does not mean that the visual experience needs to be boring, basic, or unappealing. Today, a large portion of people mistakenly believe accessible websites are simply text-only websites, or monochrome designs with static content. On the contrary, accessible digital experiences can be, and often are, much more.
Misconceptions About Designing for Accessibility
Good inclusive design is complex. It is not a barrier to innovation in design, and the end-result does not have to be lifeless or bland.
Accessibility does not mean removing all colour and graphics. What it does mean is that you must think about how colour is used, and provide alternative content for images and other graphical objects that are informational or functional. Although you must adhere to some constraints when designing with accessibility in mind, working within these guidelines will create a good-looking website that is usable by all your visitors.
Considerations to Get Inclusive Design Right
Before deciding on colours, fonts, etc., it is important to get the wireframes of the new website ready. The main issues to consider from an accessibility point of view is that the content must have a meaningful reading order with consistent navigation and layout throughout the website. These two components will benefit all the website visitors not just people with disabilities.
Other factors to consider in the design process is using scalable fonts and having sufficient colour contrast. It is important to remember that the visual appearance of a site is controlled by style sheets; accessibility should not have any impact on visual design.
At the end of the process you will end up with an accessible and usable website by a large diverse set of users. It is important to design for people who are young, old, frequent users, casual users, and those who just enjoy a quality experience.
Changing the conversation
Currently, the concerns around litigation, costs to implement, and the potentially diminished visual quality of websites are at the forefront of brands’ minds when it comes to investing in web accessibility. Instead, we should be concerned with fully eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities in both digital and physical environments. As noted in this year’s Bristol UX Conference in the UK, “in order to be a success, we must redesign systems, not people. Design without empathy is what we need to avoid.”
For a quick assessment of your site’s level of web accessibility compliance, use our Accessibility Checker.