Unit 11: Intro to Photoshop
Unit 12: Design Accessibility
Unit 13: Product Design Thinking
Unit 14: User Experience Design
Unit 16: Introduction to Design Portfolios
Unit 17: Portfolio Development
Unit 18: Personal Branding
Unit 19: Case Studies
Unit 20: Portfolio Website Design
Unit 21: Career Coaching
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What is Accessibility?

In this lesson, we will talk about what accessibility is, why it is important, the guidelines, and the difference between accessibility and usability.

What is the difference between a designer and an artist?

Designers design and make products for people to use. They have their audience’s needs, interests, and capabilities in mind while artists create a piece without having anyone in mind. Artists create to express themselves and designers design to make users’ lives easier. If a design is not usable then the designer has failed. Accessibility is a part of a design being usable.

Accessibility is a measurement of a user’s ability to use products/services, the extent to and ease with which they can meet their goals. Designing with accessibility in mind enables people with a range of abilities and disabilities to perceive, understand, navigate, interact with, and contribute to the web.

Accessibility is the concept of whether a product or service can be used by everyone—however they encounter it. Accessibility laws exist to aid people with disabilities, but designers should try to accommodate all potential users in many contexts of use anyway. To do so has firm benefits—notably better designs for all.

Accessibility vs. Usability

Both accessibility and usability overlap and are a part of UX design; however, more often than not people confuse these two. Usability is concerned with whether designs are effective, efficient, and satisfying to use. Accessibility, on the other hand, is concerned with whether all users are able to access an equivalent user experience, however, they encounter a product or service. Theoretically, this means that usability includes accessibility since a product that is inaccessible is also unusable to someone with a disability; practically, however, usability tends not to specifically focus on the user experience of people with disabilities.

Why Accessible Design?

Accessibility is not only the right thing to do, but often also brings benefits to all users. That’s because accessibility features that help people with disabilities often help other people, too. For instance, video captions that help people with hearing difficulties also help a person who is watching the video on mute (e.g., in a social media feed). Legible, high-contrast text that helps people with vision difficulties also helps people with perfect eyesight who are using the app outdoors in bright sunlight. Many users—whatever their abilities—will face challenges due to demanding contexts. When you design for all ability levels, you can create products and services anyone can use and enjoy—or at least find helpful or calming.

Although accessibility is a critical factor that impacts design, many brands overlook it. Based on a 2011 World Health Organization report concerning disability, however, you’ll exclude about 15% of Earth’s population if you don’t make your design accessible. Furthermore, many jurisdictions—including the E.U.—have penalties for failure to create accessible designs. However, designing for accessibility makes sense on more than a legal level; it brings benefits, including these:

  • Opportunities to reach more users on more devices, in more settings/environments
  • Enhanced public image for your brand

Types of Accessibility Issues

Let’s talk about different types of accessibility and disability considerations.

  • Visual accessibility, like color blindness.
  • Motor or mobility accessibility for wheelchair-users.
  • Auditory accessibility for hearing difficulties.
  • Seizures especially photosensitive epilepsy.
  • Learning and cognitive problems like dyslexia.

Ability barriers can also arise for any user:

  • Incidental (e.g., sleep-deprivation)
  • Environmental (e.g., using a mobile device underground)

Guidelines for Accessibility

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) stipulates standards for accessible design in its latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). You can follow these essential points to accommodate users with diverse abilities:

  • Include personas with varying abilities.
  • Use alt text on content-enhancing images. ‘Alt text’ is a contraction of ‘alternative text’. It’s a short written description of an image, which makes sense of that image when it can’t be viewed for some reason. Well-written alt text is important to your website’s accessibility, and its search engine optimization (SEO). Remember, alt text is more the developer’s job. Accessibility
    • It’s read by screen readers in place of images, allowing your image content to be accessed by people who are blind or have visual impairment
    • It can be useful to people with certain sensory processing and/or learning disabilities
    • It’s displayed in place of the image in browsers if the image file hasn’t loaded, or when the user has chosen not to view images.
    SEO Because good alt text provides semantic meaning to, and a description of, an image, it’s used by search engines to return search results. Thinking about that in another way; good alt text gives search engines more – and better – information to rank your website with; so they’ll rank it higher. The more thoughtfully and helpfully you describe all of your content to users, the easier it is for search engine robots to understand as well.
    • Have a link strategy (i.e., describe the link before inserting it – e.g., “Read more about the Interaction Design Foundation, at their website.” Offer visual cues (e.g., PDF icons), underline links and highlight menu links on mouseover.
    • Improve visibility with careful color selection and high contrast. Test your color choices on color contrast websites to ensure that it passes accessibility.
    • Offer transcriptions for audio resources, captions/subtitles for video.
    • Make content easily understandable – simpler language reaches more users, as do effective information hierarchy, progressive disclosure and prompting.
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