Aquent Aquent

So You're Thinking About Accessibility...

By Ben Kinkaid

Continuous line drawing of an eye, a brain, an ear and a hand

Great! The first step is - without a doubt - having accessible design on your radar. It’s something that’s kind of a big deal, and it’s something that Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, said was critical for every user way back in 1997 (ten years before the first iPhone, and nine years before Facebook was open to the public). It’s even more important now considering the fact that EU legislation is looming, and the UK is likely to follow suit. 

What Does it Mean?

Darren Wilson (UX Designer at UXcentric) puts this simply: “Digital ‘accessibility’ relates to design of content so that it can be used by everyone, inclusive of those with varying limitations of the following abilities:

  • Visual: Blindness, low vision and colour-blindness
  • Motor: Reduced ability to use a mouse, slow response time, limited fine motor control
  • Auditory: Profound deafness and hard of hearing
  • Cognitive: Learning difficulty, easily distracted, an inability to focus on large quantities of information or data”

It’s not necessarily a simple feat, but designing with inclusivity in mind improves the experience for everyone.

Why Should I Be Accessible?

According to the UK Government stats published in March 2020, 21% of people (14.1 million) in the UK live with a disability. Of those 14.1 million people:

  • 1.7 million people have issues with vision
  • 10.5 million people have issues with mobility or dexterity 
  • 1.8 million people have a hearing impairment
  • Over 4.2 million people have cognitive difficulties

ImpairmentTypes171819

(Above: Impairment types reported by disabled people, 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19, United Kingdom)

And it’s not just those with tangible or permanent disabilities (measured in the figures above) that you need to consider. For each type of impairment there are those that are momentarily incapacitated and those temporarily less able, on top of those with long term disabilities. One example might be a mother carrying her newborn baby and trying to navigate your website with her one free hand - you wouldn’t consider her disabled and yet, in that situation, she has the same needs as someone who only has one hand. In the middle of that range there are those like people who are recovering from a stroke or who have broken their arm - their requirements will be similar again.

The same is true for visual, auditory, and cognitive capabilities too. There are innumerable circumstances for the momentarily incapacitated, temporarily less able, and long term disabled. Once you realise you’re literally catering for every person at some point in their lives, it becomes pretty clear that accessibility matters.

If you’ve designed your website, app or digital media without taking these people into account, you’re not only ostracising at least 1 in 5 of the UK’s population, you’re also falling short of the Equality Act 2010 legislation that the government introduced to push for “reasonable adjustment for disabled people”.

Regardless of legislation, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that putting accessibility first benefits SEO, functionality for all users, and even profitability. In a 2018 Accenture study, 45 of 140 companies that stood out for disability employment and inclusion saw a 28% higher revenue, 200% net income, and 30% higher profit margins. It’s also worth noting that, according to We Are Purple, the spending power of disabled households (dubbed the Purple Pound) is valued at upwards of £274 billion per year for UK businesses, with an estimated £2 billion per month being forfeited by businesses who remain inaccessible. 


This is an excerpt from How to Get Started With Digital Accessibility. If you'd like to read more click here to download your free copy of the guide.

About Author

Ben Kinkaid is Marketing Executive at Aquent UK

Author's Website

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