The Importance of Accessibility in Product Design


Designers of all kinds must consider accessibility when designing both physical and digital products.

This process isn’t always easy because it’s difficult to determine how much attention you should give these processes. Regulations define minimum standards for accessibility in many cases, but product designs often take things a step further.

Accessibility opens the door to more users and customers. It gives your business access to the broadest possible audience.

While it’s true that those needing accessible features are in the minority, truly customer-centric businesses know better than to overlook these users.

Accessible Features Cater to a Wide Audience

People with disabilities require accessible features to use products and services.

For example, without screen-reader-optimized content, a blind person simply will not be able to use your website. Careful design can make any website accessible to the blind, but these features also improve the quality of life for other users.

This principle is known as the curb-cut effect, which refers to the sloping of curbs at crosswalks and other points for wheelchair users.

It soon became apparent after their introduction that everyone benefited from these designs.

Parents pushing strollers and cyclists had a much easier time getting on and off the sidewalk, and everyday pedestrians tripped much less than before.

The best practices that make products more accessible also make them easier to use for everyone.

In the same way, using clear headings and metadata when developing web pages makes your site more accessible for every user. Obviously, developing accessible features can have long-reaching positive effects on any product.

Legal Accessibility Requirements

Laws vary widely in different countries and states, but most have some common basic requirements for accessibility.

These terms are often less concrete and infrequently enforced for digital products, with only prominent companies regularly held accountable. Nonetheless, these legal requirements codify the moral obligation to provide access to everyone.

The most prominent guidelines for user experience accessibility come from the Web Accessibility Initiative.

Their Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) cover the full range of accessibility concerns. They break conformance into the three following levels: A (lowest), AA, and AAA (highest).

AA accessibility is generally considered the standard. AAA is not a recommended requirement because it’s not possible to satisfy all AAA success criteria for some content.

These standards cover subjects like:

  • Text alternatives
  • Audio descriptions
  • Navigation
  • Color and contrast
  • Spacing
  • Keyboard Traps
  • Seizure thresholds
  • Input assistance

Businesses should implement these principles as best they can for the optimal experience for all users. While it’s understandable that not every product can meet every standard, we believe that companies have a moral obligation to do as much as possible.

This is especially the case for larger companies that have more resources and can support the pursuit of highly accessible products.

Developments in Accessibility

Product design has come a long way and continues to evolve.

During the early days of digital products, interfaces were purely digital, and there was little to no accessibility accommodation. Today, there are more technologies and methods than ever before.

Many of the most significant developments in accessibility features have been in multi-user applications for the blind and the deaf.

Rather than developing internal accessibility features, these apps aim to provide universal accessibility through reading and hearing features that can translate any information into a useful form.

Many devices today improve accessibility beyond digital product design.

Integrating technologies for health tracking with smart devices and applications—such as heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar monitoring—helps many people live healthier. Automated monitoring dramatically reduces the impact health conditions have on each user’s life.

Maintaining Your Business’s Reputation

Regardless of your organization’s position on product accessibility, there is significant social pressure to embrace those design principles.

If the word begins to spread that disabled users are struggling to access your product, and you aren’t doing anything about it, your reputation will quickly decline.

On the other hand, proactively developing products will improve your reputation.

Potential users will be impressed with your business’s sense of social responsibility. Companies that focus on developing innovative, accessible features are celebrated within their industries and by their customers.

Ensuring Effective Accessibility

Product design can’t just strive for accessibility. It must succeed.

Businesses should make every effort to ensure that their accessible features are delivering the accessibility they promise. There are many ways that developers can do this, such as through automated tools available online. These tools validate adherence to technical standards for accessibility.

For any web development project, user testing is a critical part of ensuring accessibility.

This lets developers gauge how well their accessibility functions really work and identify any problems that might occur. Responsible testing is key to ensuring the actual success of any attempts to improve accessibility.

Product Design to Meet the Highest Accessibility Standards

The team at With Pulp uses the latest best practices to meet accessibility standards on every product development project we undertake.

Find out what we can do for your product design by contacting us today for a free consultation.

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