In 2012, the U.S. Census reported that 19% of the population — about 56.7 million people — had some type of disability. And that number has increased by 2.2 million since 2005. More than half of those people described it as severe, meaning their day-to-life was greatly impacted. This is a humongous portion of the United States whose needs aren’t being met.
Accessibility is more than just a ramp to a door instead of stairs. For me, accessibility — or A11y for short, as there are 11 letters between the first and last of the word — is about inclusion.
Making Accessibility Inclusive
There are many ways to plan your content and design to accommodate more users, customers, and potential clients.
Companies can update their websites, apps, or other software to ensure fonts are large and in colors that people with low vision and poor eyesight, or color blindness can read or access it. Or consider using font weights that are easier for people with dyslexia and other learning difficulties to read. Or provide captioning for videos so that those who are hard of hearing can know what people are saying.
Why Should Companies Care about Accessibility?
Companies should make changes to their public-facing interfaces to accommodate disabilities because it shows they care. But there are significant financial reason for doing it. For instance, you could get sued if your site isn’t accessible. As of July 2017, at least 751 federal website accessibility lawsuits have been filed since the beginning of 2015.
Additionally, as PNSQC speaker Michael Larsen reminded us in his talk in October, everyone experiences temporary disabilities in their everyday lives. From loud environmental noises preventing you from hearing someone (like at a concert), to not being able to see in a darkened room, or having only one free hand to use your phone instead of 2 — the average person is not always fully able-bodied. In other words, if your website or phone app or other online product isn’t universally accessible, you risk losing potential customers. If they can’t read or hear or navigate your site, they’ll leave and find what they need elsewhere.
Every company needs to keep these situations (and oh so many more!) in mind to best serve its users. The simpler a company’s products are to use, the more we all benefit.