Accessibility – the quality of being easy to obtain or use. (Dictionary)

Accessibility: the qualities that make an experience open to all. (Microsoft)

We are all aware that employers must now comply with Accessibility within the workplace to remove barriers to make sure nobody is excluded from taking an active part in working life. But what about accessibility in other areas of our lives?

Accessibility has wider benefits

One of the primary reasons that accessibility has wider benefits than primarily allowing people with disabilities to use products is the curb-cut effect. The curb-cut effect refers to the fact that designs created to benefit people with disabilities often end up benefiting a much larger user group. (Interaction Design Foundation)

The phrase curb-cut effect originated from the ‘ramps’ cut into pavements. These were originally designed to allow wheelchair users to be able to cross the road; however, they turned out to have more widespread benefits, with people with pushchairs, bikes and people needing general easy access using them.

The curb-cut effect can also be seen in closed captions on video material. Where it was originally designed for people with hearing impairments (a limited user group) they are now used for a much wider audience including use in noisy environments, and foreign viewers who read translated spoken content in different languages. Closed captioning or subtitles have become a huge business.

Also, solutions like larger font size catering to people with vision impairment can also serve a person driving a car.

The curb cut effect states that when you design for disabilities, you make things better for everyone in the process.

In a recent article in Design Week by Kyle Wheeler from R/GA it looks at why accessibility must be considered from the start of a project:

If you don’t have the time to read the piece, an interesting fact I took from the above article is that The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates 1 billion people globally live with some form of disability. This same audience is estimated to have a combined spending power of $8 trillion. But what matters most about this fact is to consider what disability means and why accessibility is important.

“The need to adapt to variable needs is more critical than ever as products and services are born, raised and sunset within a purely digital world. So much of our ‘culture of convenience’ that we rely on cannot be accessed by any other means than digital.

But, if you believe the culture of convenience is for everyone, try closing your eyes and booking a flight on your go-to travel site using only a screen reader. Or try navigating your favourite e-commerce site using only a keyboard. I promise you that the convenience that so many of us enjoy and take for granted quickly fades. This is the daily experience of so many of the 1 billion people included in the WHO estimate.”

Why does it matter?

Products are ideally designed for all people and not just a section of them; but what works for some may not work for others and keeping this in mind is crucial. Inclusive Design makes it possible for a diverse set of people to participate in different ways and makes sure everyone has a sense of belonging. (uxdesign) Accessibility promotes usability.

So, when assessing any design, take an overall look, then take a closer look and finally test your ideas against a broad audience. You may be surprised by the outcome.

“Accessibility is an outcome. Inclusive design is a process.” — Derek Featherstone, CXO of specialist accessibility agency Level Access.

We’ve been working closely with Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire NHS to design multiple websites that deliver double A grade accessibility standards. You can view our work on the Clinical Care Group website here