There's no denying that the pandemic has changed our world, which will continue to change in response to its impact. We've always needed accessibility. And it will be more important than ever moving forward.
Accessible design helps ensure that more people have access to digital products and services, regardless of disability, language, or learning style. As a business owner, it's imperative to understand why this matters so much in a post-pandemic world.
The post-pandemic world
The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way the world works. People have had to change the way they live and do their jobs. The need to socially distance led to many people living more isolated lives, relying on online tools and services to stay connected, order daily necessities, and access other essential services like health consultations.
Many businesses and organizations adopted remote working arrangements for the first time, and though some have returned to working in office settings, others have remained semi- or fully remote. As a result, companies have had to find digital solutions to facilitate these new working arrangements, and employees have had to learn, equip themselves, and adapt to these changes.
This shift has made having access to digital tools, products, and services more essential than ever to survive and thrive in today's world. As a result, accessible design has become even more crucial to ensuring that nobody gets excluded from using emerging technologies and getting what they need in this new reality.
The importance of digital accessibility
The goal of digital accessibility is to make digital products and services more usable for more people. This includes people with disabilities. By considering the needs of users with disabilities, we can ensure that everyone can access and benefit from the digital space. As that access becomes more essential in the post-pandemic world, digital accessibility becomes a prerequisite for inclusivity.
In a world that relies so heavily on digital technology, it becomes impossible to be inclusive without accessibility. People with disabilities are already more likely to face exclusion and barriers in daily life. And that divide will only grow in the post-pandemic world if we don't make changes now.
As remote work becomes more commonplace, people's hardware, software, and other tools to do their jobs must be designed so everyone can access them. If these tools are accessible from the start, more people will be able to fully participate in and contribute to the teams they work with even if they're working from home.
Accommodations are useful for bridging the gap and ensuring specific needs are met. However, if things are made to be more accessible from the start, more people will be able to use them with fewer accommodations. And since technology is always evolving and being updated, integrating accessible design practices into the design, development, and maintenance processes will help ensure that employees have consistent access to the tools they require.
Access to goods and services
Being able to purchase daily necessities and access online services may seem like nothing more than a modern convenience. And back when fully online storefronts and service providers were the minority, that may have been the case. But they were already on the rise pre-COVID and became increasingly more common during the pandemic. As a result, increasingly more essential products and services can only be accessed online.
People with disabilities are already more likely to have limited access to the technology needed to access these goods and services, and inaccessible design practices reduce their options even further. In the post-pandemic world, this isn't just a matter of convenience. If a company has an inaccessible online storefront, people may not be able to get the things they need to maintain their health and quality of life. And if a healthcare or other service provider's online interface is inaccessible, people may be left unable to get the help they need when they need it most.
Overcoming the challenges
Achieving accessibility and inclusivity in the post-pandemic world is not without its challenges, but those challenges can and must be overcome. Ongoing initiatives to spread awareness and education are essential to secure the support and resources required for success. And the most effective initiatives will also include clear steps for taking action.
Insufficient budgets and the limitations of the technology can be real barriers to sufficiently implementing accessible design practices and improving the accessibility of existing and future products, services, and other resources. But the benefits outweigh the costs for users and stakeholders alike.
All people deserve access to daily needs, opportunities, and the ability to participate in the communities they're a part of. And if the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that any of our lives could suddenly, unexpectedly change. The normalization of accessible design will establish the foundation our society needs to become more inclusive.