In dictionaries, the word “accessibility” is literally defined as “the quality of being at hand when needed, the attribute of being easy to meet or deal with.” However, especially in recent years, it’s widely and almost only used related to disability. In Wikipedia, it’s defined as: The design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities.
The concept of accessible design and practice of accessible development ensures both “direct access” (i.e. unassisted) and “indirect access” meaning compatibility with a person’s assistive technology (for example, computer screen readers).
Since the term is mainly related to disability, let’s look at some figures concerning people with disabilities:
- One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability.
- The Estimated disposable income of this population is about US$8 trillion.
- More than 46% of older persons – those aged 60 years and over—have disabilities.
- The global trends in aging populations and the higher risk of disability in older people are likely to lead to further increases in the population affected by disability.
Legislative Enforcements and Encouragements
The disability rights movement advocates equal access to social, political, and economic life, which includes not only physical access but access to the same tools, services, organizations, and facilities for which everyone pays. As a result of this, legislation on accessibility is increasing day by day on international, national, and provincial levels. These legislations increasingly lead to a search for accessibility criteria in public procurements. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, The European Accessibility Act, The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, The Equality Act of the UK, and The Disability Discrimination Act of Australia are among these legislations.
Accessibility can be viewed as the “ability to access” and benefit from some system or entity. The concept focuses on enabling access for people with disabilities, or special needs, or enabling access through the use of assistive technology; however, you don’t have to be a disabled person or define yourself as a disabled to benefit from accessibility. Examples are many but not limited to:
- Ramps and curb cuts – people pushing strollers and dollies and bikes
- Automatic doors – people whose arms are full of groceries
- Elevators – people living in skyscrapers or person working at a business tower
- Alternative text on a website – users who read tooltips, use a text-only browser, or can’t use images due to enhanced security
- High contrast color palettes – users in poorly lit environments
- Online video captions – users in a loud environment
As you might already infer from these examples, accessibility leads to usability. There is no need to add that; usability leads to higher profits and happier customers. To embrace accessibility in all phases helps a business to be inclusive as much as possible in not only consumption but also production processes. To be inclusive in production or design stages, for example, offers a business the opportunity to benefit from a larger pool of talents.
After these facts and figures, we can summarize legal, moral, and business reasons for accessibility as below:
- Prioritize accessibility in all phases of your business and contribute the right to access public products and services to be fulfilled by people with disabilities
- Design with accessibility in mind and minimize the possibility of to be faced against a lawsuit, and to be exposed to legal and financial risk
- Create accessible designs, and by doing so, expand your user base, be more usable by different people with different abilities.
- Develop “accessible by design” products and services, so in public procurements, maximize the possibility to be chosen over other competitors.
The main focus of my article concerning accessibility was the reasons. So, I’ve tried to bring forward economic, social, PR benefits, and potential litigation issues related to accessibility. I believe that if you embrace accessibility while you’re doing your business, it will help you sleep that little bit better. In the next posts, the focus will be on how’s and how to’s of accessibility.
Author: Çağrı Doğan, Accessible Products Consultant, Sestek