What are Accessible Solutions and Why Do They Matter?
What is Accessibility Anyway?
Accessibility refers to products, services, environments, facilities, or interactions being designed in a way that people with physical or mental limitations can also utilize or access that solution. A focus on accessible solutions ensure that users can interact with the solution using direct/unassisted access as well as indirect access (such as through assistive technology).
Some disabilities and permanent limitations occur at birth but some develop over time or through circumstances. As the general population lives longer, as military actions creates more wounded warriors, and as more people are affected by debilitating conditions, the need for accessible design continues to grow. And any of these people with temporary or permanent limitations are potential customers or users of a solution.
Who Benefits from Accessible Solutions?
Anyone and everyone can benefit when the solution is accessible. An accessible design is not limited to a person with a disability as limits can be temporary or situational.
When sidewalks were sloped, people in wheelchairs found it easier to navigate between the sidewalk and the street. But the sidewalk slope also benefited parents with baby strollers, travelers with luggage, delivery people with loaded carts, and more. When round doorknobs are replaced with levers, access became easier for people with arthritis but also for those with greasy hands or carrying an armful of groceries. When a website is accessible, site visitors interact more frequently and develop a stronger loyalty to the brand.
The biggest benefactor of accessible solutions could be the business entity itself. Incorporating accessibility into solution design generates a larger market by not excluding potential customers, enables easier cross-border trading, develops a good will reputation, and minimizes the time and cost of non-compliance lawsuits.
Is Accessibility The Law?
When a website visitor with vision limitations cannot adequately navigate a website, when a man’s hand tremors prevents interaction with a mouse-only application, or when a woman in a wheelchair cannot enter a building, the loss of a customer may not be the only impact. The company’s reputation and public perception is often affected. But if that is not enough, the law may be a viable recourse for that lost customer.
Many countries have enacted laws to ensure disability accommodation and inclusion:
- USA’s Americans with Disability Act (1990)
- USA’s 508 Section of the Rehabilitation Act (1973)
- USA’s 504 Section of the Rehabilitation Act (1973)
- USA’s Assistive Technology Act (1998)
- USA’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1990)
- USA’s Telecommunications Act (1996)
- United Nation’s Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2014)
- European Union’s European Accessibility Act (2015)
- Canada’s Human Rights Act (1997)
- Australia’s Disability Discrimination Act (1992)
Designing Accessible Solutions
Designing solutions to incorporate accessibility from the start requires far less effort, budget, and time than trying to integrate it afterwards. Unfortunately, the lack of understanding about accessibility often leads some businesses to overestimate the time and cost of accessible solutions. Often times, integrating certain accessibility components has little to no impact on a project’s overall time or budget when accessibility is considered into the design and build. For example, the time and effort to choose and code an accessible foreground color to background color is the same as choosing two colors that are not accessible.
In the end, the benefits of accessible solutions could far outweigh any perceived savings of avoiding accessibility in designing solutions.
View our Resource Library for more information about Accessibility: