Digital accessibility ensures that people with disabilities can access and use digital products and services. Too often, accessibility is considered an afterthought in the design process rather than being integrated. This approach can result in accessibility barriers and exclusion for people with disabilities.
Designing for digital accessibility from the start of a project can provide numerous benefits, not only for people with disabilities but for all users. Read on to explore some benefits of an accessible design approach and why designers should prioritize accessibility from the start of a project.
Benefit #1: Increased User Engagement and Satisfaction
People with disabilities can encounter barriers that prevent them from fully engaging with digital products not designed with accessibility in mind. These barriers include small font sizes, clearer instructions, and non-intuitive navigation. By contrast, when digital products are designed with accessibility in mind from the start, these barriers are minimized or even eliminated. This allows people with disabilities to engage with and enjoy the product fully.
However, designing for accessibility doesn't just benefit people with disabilities. Many accessibility features can benefit all users, regardless of their abilities. For example, clear labeling and high-contrast text can make a digital product easier to read for everyone, not just people with visual impairments.
Similarly, well-organized navigation can make a digital product easier for everyone, not just people with cognitive impairments.
By designing with accessibility in mind from the start, designers can create digital products that are easy to use for people with a wide range of abilities, leading to increased user engagement and satisfaction.
Benefit #2: Improved Usability and Functionality
When digital products are not designed with accessibility in mind, they may have usability issues affecting all users, not just people with disabilities. For example, a lack of clear labeling or confusing navigation can make it difficult for anyone to use the product, regardless of their abilities. By contrast, when designers prioritize accessibility early in the design process, they can identify and address potential usability issues before launching the product.
An accessible design approach can result in digital products that are more functional and flexible. For example, designing for accessibility may involve creating alternative text for images, providing transcripts for videos, or using scalable fonts and high-contrast colors. These accessibility features can make a digital product more flexible and functional for all users, not just people with disabilities.
By designing with accessibility in mind from the start, designers can create products that are easier to adapt and customize for different contexts and environments. Digital products that need to work in other countries, cultures, and languages can be especially important.
An accessible design approach can also help reduce the risk of costly redesigns and updates later. When accessibility is considered an afterthought, designers may need to make significant changes to the product to make it accessible. This can be time-consuming and expensive and may result in delays and lost revenue. By contrast, when designers prioritize accessibility from the start of a project, they can avoid the need for costly redesigns and updates later on, saving time and money in the long run.
Benefit #3: Legal Compliance and Risk Mitigation
Accessibility is important not only from an ethical perspective and a legal one. In many countries, digital accessibility is mandated by law. By designing for accessibility from the start, designers can ensure that their products meet accessibility standards and guidelines, reducing the risk of legal issues and ensuring compliance.
If a company fails to meet accessibility standards and regulations, it could face legal action, penalties, and reputational damage due to non-compliance. However, it's also important to note that accessibility should not be an afterthought, as retrofitting a product to meet accessibility standards can be costly and time-consuming. By prioritizing accessibility in the design process, companies can stay ahead of potential legal changes and future accessibility standards. Using design for accessibility in the future can reduce the risk of legal action and penalties as new regulations become effective.
Benefit #4: Increased Reach and Market Share
An accessible design approach can also increase digital product reach and market share. People with disabilities are a large and growing market segment, and designing for accessibility can help companies tap into this market. Additionally, accessible design can improve digital products' search engine optimization (SEO), making them more discoverable to all users. Globally, there are over a billion people with disabilities, and they spend more than $6 trillion annually.
Designing for digital accessibility from the start of a project can provide numerous benefits, including increased user engagement and satisfaction, improved usability and functionality, legal compliance, and increased reach and market share. By prioritizing accessibility in the design process, designers can create digital products that are accessible and usable for all users.