Digital accessibility is the seamless design of products, tools, and services for all users. The need for digital accessibility has increased with the rise of technology and digital media. 40 million Americans or 12.6% of US citizens live with a disability. Disabilities include any form of visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive impairment. Here are some challenges and solutions to digital accessibility for all:
Many websites are designed for abled people by abled people.
For example, a photo sharing application may require users to zoom into an image by pinching their fingers. This design becomes a challenge for people with limited dexterity.
Link and form controls, headings page sections, paragraph elements, and skip links can allow users to navigate content quickly. Companies can enhance their products and services by creating alternative input mechanisms for users.
In addition, many websites are built with poor user interface design. Websites are difficult to access when they are not created with assisted technology in mind. People with low vision or blindness often use screen readers to consume information online. Users with cognitive disabilities may also prefer to use audio tools as opposed to visual ones. All digital tools and services should be designed with screen readers in mind.
Companies can create stunning user interfaces by keeping things simple and purposeful. Eliminate unnecessary items from a page and ensure that the most important information is highlighted.
Developers can build great platforms with people who use assistive technology. They can also test the accessibility of their platforms and design innovative solutions.
Audio and Video
Websites with audio and video content can be inaccessible to the hearing impaired. For example, Youtube offers auto-generate captions. These captions are accurate but often lack contextual information.
Experts recommend the following accommodations:
- Descriptive transcripts – many platforms now offer auto-generated transcripts. Add additional context to your transcripts including non-speech information (location, noise, setting, time, etc.)
- Audio descriptions – provide additional information on visual content
- Captions – provide text versions of your audio or video media. Ensure that the captions are accurate and presented with the corresponding media
Audio and video accommodations can lead to positive outcomes. For example, audio and video with transcripts have more success with search engine optimization (SEO). Developers should aim to create to rich, descriptive multimedia.
User experiences include the behavior, action, perception, and satisfaction of a person. Many users with disabilities can recall negative experiences with technology. The following changes can enhance satisfaction for all users:
- Partner with Assistive Technology (AT) Providers – there are many helpful tools including screen readers that are already in use. Collaborate with users and AT experts to improve existing technology and launch new innovative efforts.
- Collect user research – Build platforms with the help of disabled users and test the accessibility of your website often.
- Robust technical support – Digital tools and services should include support for people with disabilities. Support teams can provide training for certain product features. They can also work closely with users to overcome unique challenges.
Everyone will develop a disability at some point. Digital accessibility improves people’s lives and open doors for economic opportunity. Nearly 80% of Americans shop online today. What happens if you break your wrist, lose your motor skills, or discover a learning disability? Accessible tools are critical in today’s society.
Stand out as a leader by breaking down barriers to digital access.
Rosa Otieno is an operations manager and writer in San Francisco, California. She is passionate about health, wellness, and social impact. You can learn more about her work on www.rosaodie.com and follow her on Twitter at @rosa_odie.