In today’s social climate, an inclusive brand is more important than ever. Diversity and inclusion (D&I) has become a major consideration in the C-suite and the boardroom, and virtually every Fortune 500 HR department features D&I initiatives for both employees and customers. Major brands are pushing narratives of inclusion to broaden their potential audience and customer base.
To promote your brand as truly inclusive, you must first ensure that your digital environments and content, your website, mobile apps, videos, PDFs, and more are designed with accessibility for all in mind. But how do you begin designing your website for accessibility and inclusion?
Accessibility and Inclusive Design
Accessibility generally refers to a series of design criteria for a website or app (or building) that, when satisfied, ensures the experience can be used by everyone, regardless of disability or assistive technology.
Inclusive design is a holistic design methodology that aims to make products and services accessible to and usable by as many people as possible without modifications.
What is the relationship between accessibility and inclusive design?
Accessibility is about reaching compliance with a set of technical standards (currently, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG, version 2.1) to ensure users with disabilities can use your website.
Inclusive design delivers the best user experience possible for everyone, regardless of age, disability, or impairment. It takes more than ability into account when considering design implications for users.
Although they are slightly different concepts, both accessibility and inclusive design seek to make products, services, and digital content accessible to and usable by as many people as possible. Ultimately, inclusive design is accessible, and accessible design is inclusive.
Inclusive design doesn’t mean limiting or hindering the design process or final product. In fact, inclusive design makes development and UX teams think more deeply and meaningfully about how a website or app is designed. Instead of posting a random stock photograph on a page, the design team can think about:
- What is in the photograph
- How the photo relates to the page content
- Where the photo should fit into the copy
- Why the photo is being used so that you can put it in the right place and write the best alt tags and descriptive text for assistive technology
Designing with accessibility and inclusivity in mind also means you won’t need to retrofit your website after a lawsuit or complaint. These small but meaningful changes to how teams design and develop a website can make a huge difference in delivering a better-quality and more cohesive product—not to mention ensuring everyone has the best experience possible.
Another misconception is that inclusive design to comply with the Americans with Disability Acta (ADA) is prohibitively expensive. Although up-front costs are unavoidable, they can be calculated and planned for, and an ADA-compliant website ultimately saves money in the long term.
3 Early Steps to Designing for Accessibility and Inclusion
These three steps are critical when initially addressing web accessibility through the lens of inclusive design:
Gather diverse feedback: Getting input from different stakeholders (preferably with disabilities) about your website’s accessibility is critical to ensuring you don’t exclude any important perspectives.
Solve for one, then scale: Instead of trying to test the entire site all at once, focus on main user workflows, one at a time, and scale from there..
Test, then retest: Make sure that you review all accessibility changes to your website by soliciting user testing from people with disabilities in real-life scenarios.
Cultivating Inclusion Through Accessibility
Through the current global pandemic, as more interactions and more transactions have been made digitally via remote work and collaboration, the importance of designing for accessibility and inclusion has skyrocketed. Your brand’s website is your de facto storefront to the world. To truly embody inclusion, you must make sure that storefront is navigable and intuitive for every potential customer.
Proactively ensuring that your digital and online presence is inclusive shows not only that your brand is delivering on its mission and business goals, but also that you care about each user and every interaction your users have with your product or service. To learn more about inclusive design and other web and app accessibility topics, check out our Roadmap to Digital Inclusion.