Accessibility and Inclusive Design: Best Friends by Code Enigma

Watercolor website wireframes in blue, purple, and green.
Alana Battalino
Alana Battalino

Last month, UK Drupal specialists, Code Enigma reached out to us to collaborate on some content. After a bit of brainstorming, we settled on a topic that both of our companies are passionate about: web accessibility.

Accessibility and Inclusive Design: Best Friends 

by Maygen Egan

At a recent A11y London meetup, our Head of Design, Justine, was taken aback by one guest speaker in particular. Derek Featherstone, CXO of specialist accessibility agency, Level Access, said: Accessibility is an outcome. Inclusive design is a process. 

This means accessibility should be an integral part of an inclusive design methodology.

When we talk about accessibility, we mean creating products that everyone is able to use. Inclusive design is different, but complements this process by being the mindset one takes when understanding and involving user diversity. It’s a very human-centric methodology, and in this case, the more the merrier; more perspectives from more people means more learning. 

Inclusive Design ensures that regardless of the situation, people are not discriminated against or otherwise prevented from accessing a brand’s website (and, in fact, their products and services, but since we’re a web agency, we’ll specifically be talking digitally). 

You must encourage client awareness of how important engagement with impaired users is; because they are still consumers, and you should not reject any of your desired audience. 

You might be wondering, why aren’t all websites accessible by default?

As mentioned above, it’s not for business reasons. Not allowing certain groups access to your content is effectively telling them you don’t want their time or attention. 

An unfortunate fact from the Office of National Statistics (2017) tells us that because all websites do not cater to impairment needs, 1 in 5 individuals with a disability has never used the internet.  

Here are some myths we’d like to bust about accessible websites.

It’s too expensive to apply to a small minority

Businesses often misjudge the numbers; thinking it’s a worthless venture to gain a ‘few’ more users. When you consider that there are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK, you might agree that the number is not negligible. Consider the additional profit of reaching a wider audience and your web development costs are justified.

Impairments are lifelong 

It’s incorrect to assume that user impairments are lifelong. Consider “situational impairments” like low lighting, background noise (or silence, even) rendering it necessary to use text-only versions of the page you’re viewing, or, trying to look at something on your phone on a packed tube. 

There are also temporary physical impairments; can you imagine how tricky it is to type with a broken arm?

Inclusive design offers a solution to these considerations. 

It will impact negatively on how my website looks

This is possibly the most popular concern when considering an accessible web design – and a valid one some 20 years ago. However, today, technology equips good web designers with the tools and techniques they need to build an elegant, accessible website. 

There is no longer a valid argument to negate inclusion in favor of aesthetics. 

Inclusive Design is a mindset

Finally, we must recognize that different needs exist. We must embrace the diversity of our users and shape accessibility from initial conception, user research, prototyping, and building of products and services. 

Only then can we offer access to everything, for everyone.

To learn more about Code Enigma, visit their site. While you’re there, head over to their blog and check out our post.

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