Good design isn’t enough
Accessibility is in the spotlight because of the worldwide change in legislation. In 2017, there were 814 website accessibility lawsuits filed in federal and state courts across the USA and The European Commision will soon be introducing laws that will oblige every EU based business to be accessible. That’s good, but in my opinion, it’s not accessibility we need, it’s inclusive design.
Inclusive design is an approach that considers, from the very beginning, how your product can be easy, useful and enjoyable for as many people as reasonably possible without the need for special adaptation. It doesn’t suggest that it’s always possible to design for the entire population but it’s a design practice that brings everyone together and doesn’t discriminate or divide us.
As designers, we have the power and responsibility to make sure that everyone has access to what we create regardless of ability, context, or situation.
It’s not people with disabilities that encounter issues, it’s the designers that create the problems
We (the designers) are creating limitations and issues for all potential users because we’re forgetting that we should be designing for everyone.. So let’s ask ourselves, whose fault is it? Those with disabilities or us who forget that we are designing for everyone?
I often forget that I'm a little person. It's the physical environment and society that remind me
The ATM issue
The ATM is a great example of how people create limitations. Most ATMs are designed so a person of average height can use it but a small person or someone in a wheelchair may experience issues when trying to access it. Why create an issue that doesn’t need to exist? Overcoming this particular example is a simple fix - you just have to lower the ATM so everyone can use it.
Making the world an equal place for everyone
Let’s look at products designed according to inclusive design - usable and enjoyable for all:
- Text messaging: originally designed for people that can’t speak or are deaf and is now used by everyone around the world
- The OXO Good Grips Handles: designed for people with arthritis - they’re now a must-have in every kitchen (you can read more about the story behind it here)
- Ferrari Enzo (2002 - 2004): when the door opens it detaches part of the roof and door, making it easier to enter the car
- iPhone 3G: this was the first phone with several accessibility features onboard including a screen reader, a game changer for those with a disability
These are just a few examples. As you can see, inclusive design is applicable to any business, product or service type.
New technology - new opportunities
The world is changing and becoming more tech-based. Many companies invest in new technologies that make their products usable for all, like the house developer sector that's implementing new experiences like video content or AR. New technologies help us design inclusive products.
For example, Google Arts and Culture is a tool that lets everyone discover the most beautiful man-made places and art through a phone, tablet or computer. This is a tool that is fun, practical and it makes the world a more equal place.
Why accessibility is not enough
There are obvious reasons why accessibility is important and everyone should implement it. But it’s only making changes to a product that’s not designed for many.
Microsoft in their 2003 study on accessibility tech concluded that: “the concept of “disability” may have limited the understanding of the need for accessible technology(...). The IT industry must consider the wide range of people who could benefit from accessible technology”.
So, if you’re designing a new product remember that good design isn’t enough and adding accessibility won’t fix it. You need to think of the new product or service in an inclusive way so you’re designing for everyone.
There are a lot of great articles about inclusive design, accessibility tools and good practice:
- A list of Accessibility tools
- Seven easy to implement accessibility guidelines
- TED Talk: Fight for disability rights and why we’re not done yet
- TED Talk: When we design for disability, we all benefit
- Inclusive Design Toolkit by University of Cambridge
- Designing for accessibility is not that hard
- “The Wide Range of Abilities and Its Impact on Computer Technology” Microsoft 2003
I’m the UX designer at Kolab. I’m responsible for the human-centred approach to our products and services. If you would like to know a bit more about me check out the article Spotlight on our UX Designer. If you would like to contact me just hit the “Get In Touch” button below.