June 08, 2016

Design for Accessibility

There is a huge market share you may be missing

1 billion people across  the globe, 1 in 7, have some sort of disability, according to this talk from Google I/O 2016.

ONE BILLION people. That is a number so high that I can't understand it. I have no way of visualising that in my head. 1 billion.  I feel the streets of Düsseldorf, Germany can be crowded during Christmas markets and we aren't even 1 million people living here.


At another talk I attended during Google I/O - yes, I was lucky enough to get a ticket - we were told that 20% of Americans will sometime during their life have some sort of disability. July 4 the American population was 321,442,019 people, according to US Census bureau. OVER 321000000. OVER 321 MILLION people. 20 % of that is a LOT of people.

Design for Accessibility. 

Develop for Accessibility.

It pays off. In more than one way. 

Building in accessibility from the start, making sure that people with disabilities can use your app or your website - that is not just nice to do and has a great social impact, it also gives you an edge and an advantage for the future, enabling a bigger market share - not to mention how you enable your employees to continue to contribute even if they would, at some point, face challenges such as impaired vision.

Put accessibility in there together with usability.

Ginny Grant, from Benetech, whom I also was lucky enough to have a long chat with in Mountain View, starts by giving us some very clear advice (notice that I have just summarised - listen to the talk!):
  • Start early. Think about accessibility as early as you can. 
  • Look for all the design standards
  • Think about "POUR"
She also gives some very concrete examples on how to test for accessibility:
Turn the volume down. Turn down the monitor. Use an oven mitten to try and navigate. 


Holger Dieterisch, freelancer from Berlin also says something worth remembering: 
"We think that inclusion means that everybody should take part in daily life equally, no matter if they have a disability or not"
And then he tells the story about how he and his best friend weren't able to go to cafes and bars outside the area where the friend lived - the friend simply didn't know where he could go, as he is in a wheelchair and a simple step can hinder access. We have similar issues with programs, websites and apps. Small steps, small things can mean the difference between useless and usable. 

Düsseldorf promenade, by the river Rhine, with people standing looking over water.I would very much like to recommend that you listen to some of the talks from Google I/O 2016 about accessibility - they are all available on YouTube, in the Google I/O 2016 playlist

Design is not just about making something look nice. To me, design is about making sure it WORKS for the USER. As I said in a tweet recently, from my Geek account: (a response to a tweet forwarded by InvisionApp): "Pretty" comes last. Usability, affordance, accessibility - they are all higher on my list (link to tweet here). Pretty is good, but I can focus on pretty when I paint or draw, or when I photograph. 

When it comes to design it's about what works for the user, first of all. And remember situational disability. We all experienced it - that moment when we can't do what we normally do because our hands are full, it's noisy around us, the hands are wet, or whatever it may be.

Design for accessibility.

I often missed accessibility myself, at least in the past - I focused on usability but forgot such a big chunk of the population. It wasn't until I was sitting together with a Swedish friend and tried to explain something using colours that it really hit me. He could not take my instructions - because all he saw were tones of brown - he - my friend - is colour blind. Not just a little, but very colour blind. THAT in itself can be a disability! 

I am definitely taking learnings from Google I/O 2016 with me and hope to get better at planning for accessibility. I already promised myself to make an effort after hearing Kelly Schuster at Droidcon in Berlin 2015, but now I REALLY have to do it. 

Who is with me?

Other Accessibilit talks from Google I/O 2016


"Button 56: Undefined" - look at what the developer says himself, around 8:01...  Accessibility doesn't have to be difficult. Add the label. Accessibility greatly improved.

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* POUR - Put the people in the centre of the process, a good article about that can be found here, on WebAim


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