Despite recent advancements, people with disabilities continue to confront numerous challenges in accessing services. If you’re not designing with these individuals in mind, you’re missing out on the opportunity to reach millions of potential customers. Meeting the needs of all users beyond the “average” user group is the goal of inclusive design. Designing with inclusivity allows users to perform tasks quickly and efficiently, regardless of their skill or ability level. Here are five tips to help user experience designers understand the importance of inclusivity and accessibility:
1. Be Aware of Your Assumptions and Biases
UX designers are human. They will have personal biases and opinions that they project into their designs, even subconsciously. Luckily, we can become aware of our assumptions and make efforts to avoid these biases. The American Bar Commission on Disability Rights recommends several different resources to help mitigate biases, including meeting new people in your field, focusing on each person as an individual rather than a team, self-reflection, and education. Designers should consider taking the Implicit Association Test (IAT), which can help them to measure their own implicit biases.
2. Ask Users What They Need
What better way to develop inclusive products than to ask people what they want? While performing research can be time-consuming and costly, you don’t have to go it alone.
Many organizations—including the ABA—provide materials to make it simpler to reach out to people with impairments. These organizations frequently offer trained facilitators who may assist you in gathering input and ensuring that your users’ views are heard.
The benefits of doing this kind of research are numerous. You’ll get to hear directly from people with disabilities about how they use your products. You can also ask questions about your design goals, which can help you determine how best to meet their needs and avoid making assumptions about what they may want or need.
3. Disabilities Come in All Forms
When we think of accessibility and inclusion, we might picture someone who has a physical handicap. Keep in mind that disabilities come in a variety of forms. Some are permanent, while others may be temporary. They can be caused by age, genetics, or environmental factors. Regardless of disability, incorporating inclusive design like options for larger buttons and fonts can be beneficial to all users. Designing with inclusion in mind helps expand the reach of your product to a larger audience, allowing you to reach more audiences and serve more people at the same time.
4. Avoid Legal Issues
Besides being the right thing to do, your design team should consider inclusivity for legal reasons. While the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to rule that all websites must be accessible, the writing is on the wall. In California, for example, website designers and owners are at risk of paying monetary damages if they violate the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which requires “full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges or services in all business establishments.” Get ahead of the curve and make your design inclusive.
5. Reach an Underserved Market
We’ve discussed moral and legal reasons for being inclusive, but what about financial? Nearly 50 million Americans identify as disabled. Inclusive design will not only benefit your disabled audiences but will also broaden your user base. People with disabilities have a purchasing power of $220 billion dollars in the United States alone. If you make your product inclusive, everyone, regardless of age, education level, or ability can use it on any device, anywhere.
It’s crucial to remember that inclusive design is continually changing, so updating and improving existing products is a fantastic approach to demonstrate to users that the company values them and that their opinion matters. It is not merely a moral imperative to provide an inclusive user experience. It’s also logical from a business standpoint.