Designing for accessibility should be top of mind for all designers, developers, and stakeholders. By incorporating principles of inclusive design and utilizing accessible design patterns, we can ensure that our websites and applications are available to all users, regardless of ability or disability. In this article, we’ll discuss the principles of inclusive design, accessible design patterns, and successful case studies of sites and applications that demonstrate a commitment to accessibility.
Inclusive Design Principles
Inclusive design focuses on providing access to all users, regardless of ability or disability. It’s about developing a design that not only meets the needs of the majority of people, but also anticipates the needs of those who may have a range of abilities and disabilities. In practice, this involves accounting for visual, auditory, motor, cognitive and language differences by designing in ways that are simple, flexible, and responsive. Some popular principles of inclusive design are:
1. Anticipate user needs. Design for potential users of all abilities and disabilities.
2. Be consistent. Use a unified design language and adhere to web standards.
3. Provide alternatives. Minimize the reliance on one type of input, such as mouse or touch.
4. Consider readability. Make sure text is legible and use color-contrasting techniques.
5. Be flexible. Design the user experience to be responsive to changes in the user’s environment.
Accessible Design Patterns
Incorporating the principles of inclusive design is essential for making websites and applications accessible. In addition to these principles, developers should also use accessible design patterns and incorporate accessibility features into their coding and design process. Common accessibility features to consider include:
1. Text Alternatives. Provide text alternatives, such as alt tags, for images and videos.
2. Keyboard Accessibility. Design for navigation by keyboard, not just by mouse.
3. Language Support. Make sure the interface and content are available in multiple languages.
4. Text Magnification. Support zooming and resizing of text, images, and videos.
5. Audio/Visual Waiver. Enable users to bypass audio and/or visual elements.
Another important thing to remember is that accessibility should be a priority at all stages of the design process. Developers should be trained in accessible coding and design best practices, and accessibility should be tested throughout the development process.
Successful Case Studies
There are many great examples of websites and applications that demonstrate a commitment to accessibility and inclusive design. The BBC website is one of the most widely cited examples of accessibility in action. With its high contrast text and audio/visual waivers, the BBC site provides a refreshingly accessible experience. Another great example is Flipboard, the popular news aggregation service. Featuring easy to use keyboard navigation, text alternatives, and a flexible layout, Flipboard has become a go-to resource for users of all abilities.
Designing for accessibility isn’t just a good thing, it’s essential for providing all users with an equal, equitable experience. By incorporating principles of inclusive design, using accessible design patterns, and ensuring accessibility testing throughout the development process, developers and designers can ensure their websites and applications are available to all users. By taking these simple steps, and looking to successful case studies for guidance, we can create a world-wide web of equal access and opportunity.