Accessibility Through Design part II

July 13, 2020
Philip Buultjens

In Part I of ‘Accessibility Through Design’ , we acknowledged the various factors that have made accessible design a necessity in today’s digital landscape. We want our ramblings to be of use to you, so Part II details some ways in which you can start promoting and implementing human-centred UX design principles for your business or organisation

In Part I of ‘Accessibility Through Design’ , we acknowledged the various factors that have made accessible design a necessity in today’s digital landscape. We want our ramblings to be of use to you, so Part II details some ways in which you can start promoting and implementing human-centred UX design principles for your business or organisation.

Make a case for it in the context of growth and development

Whatever your role in your business or organisation, making an argument for directing resources towards improving an often overlooked facet of your digital products can be difficult. It is important to educate yourself and your colleagues on the meaning, value and requirements of accessible design.

Use the research, analysis and statistics to tell a relatable story and enable others to empathise. UX design is about people, the users of the technology; everyone’s needs are different and while this is able to be explained and justified with information about costs, benefits, timescales and risks, you risk pitching these ideas as confusing or even boring. Have a think: do you have users or customers that have experienced some kind of obstacle in using your products and services? If so, tell their story.

Do not just rely data, or assumptions and generalisations. Accessible design and UX strategy is not just based on customer surveys and quantitative data. It is based on prototyping, testing and participatory design in which market research takes on a whole new form. Have conversations with people about how they interact with your business or organisation and ideate constantly.

Conduct an accessibility audit

Think about conducting an accessibility audit on your products & services. If your product is an application or a website, the best place to start is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

“Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 defines how to make Web content more accessible to people with disabilities. Accessibility involves a wide range of disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. Although these guidelines cover a wide range of issues, they are not able to address the needs of people with all types, degrees, and combinations of disability. These guidelines also make Web content more usable by older individuals with changing abilities due to aging and often improve usability for users in general.”

Creating this audit has the benefit of showcasing an evolution of your product, but most importantly, a deeper understanding of the limitations that your product or service may currently have.

Think outside the box & from the perspective of others!

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This seems obvious, but if you are designing to adhere to certain guidelines (such as WCAG) or for certain people, it is easy to get stuck in creative ruts and follow habits and trends. Ultimately, our brains are constantly creating new neural pathways when stimulated, while also doing a lot of things subconsciously. We are all conditioned in a certain way and this can get in the way of our ability to empathise with the needs of others.

We cannot talk about innovation without acknowledging the crazy times we’re living in. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic shook up the state of society, the world was moving towards an increasingly digitised way of life. This is more isolating in a physical sense, and in some ways makes certain interactions less so. We are very far from experiencing the implications in full, however we do know that it is a time for businesses and organisations to adapt and ensure they are doing their part to service a wide range of people. Accessible UX design can address these by being both proactive and responsive.

Utilise the principles of the Double Diamond process model, which in essence identifies two phases of effective UX design, that being research and design. Effective and efficient design questions value and process at every stage in an almost cyclic way, rather than focusing on applying the same methods and principles to all projects.

Think Wrong by the strategic innovation firm Solve Next have categorised the product development cycle into 6 areas, each with their own set of outside the box drills that I believe can add value to your toolkit by reframing your current beliefs and assumptions with serendipitous results.

We believe that challenging the status quo by incorporating new drills and ways of thinking into your toolkit will help you find greater success in capturing your business or organisation’s goals and understand the accessibility challenges faced by your users, including the how and why.

Part III of ‘Accessibility in Design’ will discuss the principles discussed above, utilising our NDIS Support Planner as a case study.

Need help in an ideation session? Contact us and see how we can help guide your design workshops to bring about the change you expect and deserve.


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