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, 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, bicyclists, delivery people with loaded carts and more. When some doorknobs were replaced with levers, access became easier for people with arthritis as well as 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 law may be a viable recourse for that lost customer.
Many countries have enacted laws such as USA’s Americans with Disability Act, USA’s Rehabilitation Act, European Union’s European Accessibility Act, Canada’s Human Rights Act, and Australia’s Disability Discrimination Act.
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. At times, integrating certain accessibility components has little to no impact on a project’s overall time or budget. 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: