The digital revolution has radically changed how we interact with the world around us, providing access to unprecedented amounts of information and tools that help us be more efficient. But these benefits have not been equally accessible to all.
Accessible design is essential to securing an inclusive digital future in which everyone can participate and benefit from the opportunities this digital revolution offers in the present and the future.
What is accessible design?
Accessible design is the practice of designing with a focus on usability and accessibility for people with disabilities. It draws on accessibility standards and universal design principles and can facilitate better user experiences, ensure compliance with laws and regulations, and increase business opportunities.
By designing usable, accessible products, services, and experiences, more people can participate and benefit from the conveniences of an increasingly digital world. And embracing accessible design can shape our digital future into a more inclusive reality than we have now.
The importance of inclusion in the digital space
There are systemic inequalities built into every facet of society. Access to digital technology has become more of a necessity. Inclusion in digital spaces can prevent people from accessing information, opportunities, essential services, and basic needs.
Unequal access can profoundly impact an individual's ability to fully participate in and contribute to society and exacerbate the inequalities and disadvantages faced by marginalized groups. And the impact can extend to communities and businesses, as well.
Inclusivity, on the other hand, has the power to benefit everyone. In addition to improving accessibility for users with disabilities, accessible design can provide better experiences for all users and help establish design norms that put users first.
Why putting users first benefits everyone
Design is often a balancing act. It involves considering the goals of the company or organization providing the product or service and the needs of those they aim to serve.
There are several examples of what can happen when user needs aren't prioritized. Dark patterns are one such example. These design patterns can trick or manipulate users into taking unintended actions or prevent them from achieving their goals. Preventing users from being able to access information or use an interface as intended is a clear accessibility issue and is anti-user all around.
Making accessible, user-oriented design the standard will help mitigate malicious design practices and lead to better user experiences. And this doesn't just benefit users. The accessible, usable design opens up your digital content to a wider audience. And a user who has a positive, reliable experience with your business has more reason to stay engaged and recommend your business to others.
What society stands to gain from a more inclusive digital future
Globalization has already increased diversity in many communities, and technology is closing the gaps even faster. Borders are almost nonexistent online, making digital spaces a place where ideas from all over the world can converge and grow. But inclusivity is necessary for this diversity to be represented.
Inclusive digital spaces have the power to embrace, recognize, and amplify underrepresented experiences and ideas, leading to increased creativity and innovation. With diversity, progress continues and ideas become active. Embracing the experiences and expertise of people from different backgrounds helps us challenge the status quo and effect change in ways that push society forward.
What's needed to make this happen?
Normalizing accessible design and building an inclusive digital future requires everyone's buy-in to overcome the challenges, recognize the benefits, and adapt. Designers and developers need sufficient awareness and knowledge to use, implement, and advocate for accessible design practices. Business owners and organizational leaders need to recognize how the long-term benefits outweigh the initial costs and incorporate accessible design practices into the production pipeline for any digital products.
Government organizations need to clarify legal regulations and provide clear guidelines and resources on digital accessibility. Furthermore, governments worldwide should collaborate to harmonize standards to ensure that accessibility is prioritized for all people.
In conclusion, accessible design is essential to creating an inclusive digital future. By incorporating accessible design into our digital products, services, and tools, we can ensure that everyone can participate and benefit from what's possible with current and emerging technologies.
All stakeholders have a role to play in building an inclusive digital future. By investing in accessible technology, normalizing accessible design practices, and putting users first, businesses and organizations can help to ensure that digital products and services are accessible and that they remain accessible and usable over time.