Accessibility is a principle of UX and UI design that aims to guide the designers towards making products and services accessible to all users, including those with disabilities (e.g. visual, auditory, motor or cognitive impairments).
There are many benefits to making accessible products and services. If a product or service can be used by anyone, it automatically reaches a bigger and more diverse audience and improves user experience as digital products are more intuitive and user-friendly. Accessible products can further increase market reach and expand your current customer base as it allows people with disabilities to use your product (which they may not have been able to earlier). It also leads to a better brand image – it shows that you're willing to go the extra mile and commit to inclusivity.
Following the accessibility principle during design also helps with legal compliance; some countries introduced regulations that require digital products to be accessible by people with disabilities (e.g. American with Disabilities Act in the US or Web Content Accessibility guidelines from World Wide Web Consortium).
So how to ensure that your products and services are accessible to all? As with every other user segment, you should conduct thorough research and see how people with disabilities interact with your product. This will allow you to determine what needs adjustments and how you can adapt them. A good thing to do is also give alternative texts for all your images. If a person uses a screen reader and you use images to give more information or context for your content, then they will not miss out on any message you're trying to convey. And don't forget to use headings and structure properly. Navigating content should be easy, and the right information architecture will help with that.
There are also several things to avoid. For example, you shouldn't use colour as the only indicator for important information. Not everyone can distinguish one colour from the other. If you're only using a red colour to tell a user they made a mistake, they may not see it and not know what went wrong. That's why you should also use other cues – text, patterns, and shapes – to convey a message to your users.
Another thing you should avoid is relying on hover effects. They may not work for people who mainly operate with a keyboard or a touchscreen. Finally, one last thing to remember is to not use content that flashes more than three times per second. Flashing content can be triggering for people with photosensitive epilepsy, causing them to have a seizure.
The best way to ensure your product is accessible to every user is to follow WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).
Accessibility is a growing trend as technology becomes more available to everyone. It is crucial not to let your digital products fall behind and let them reach a bigger, wider audience with user-friendly interfaces.