Why accessibility still matters

In many ways it’s great to see that Global Accessibility Awareness Day is still happening. After two years of offline isolation and rapidly having to adjust to online communication, joining together on May 19th 2022 to celebrate a global commitment to accessibility is definitely a date not to be missed.

And yet my feelings are mixed that such a day still exists. As someone who has pioneered for accessible and inclusive design to create a natural, inclusive and overall authentic experience for everyone, it does kind of niggle me that we still require a ‘special’ day to raise awareness. After all, shouldn’t accessibility be part of all design thinking by 2022?

Perhaps I am a little cynical in raising this point. After all, if accessibility was resolved across all platforms and mediums then I could be out of a job. But as a campaigner for disabled audiences and the rights of other groups to have access to well designed, clear information and services, I also find that some of the fundamental reasons to design more accessible, have still not been addressed or valued as they should.

Why we should still care about accessibility

It’s a basic human right to access information you can understand, no matter what your lived experience might be. We know that designing information in a clear and easy way both supports and empowers people with low literacy, poor social access to learning, not speaking or reading English as a first language, poor concentration, dementia and/or age related conditions and mental health issues. Not to mention people with a wide range of neurodivergent conditions, cognitive impairments, learning disabilities and learning difficulties. 

And yet making information and services accessible is so much more than designing for difference. It’s about a fundamental shift in making all content and services accessible. By getting accessibility right for the people who need it most, we actually get it right for everyone.

How do we get accessibility ‘right’

No matter who I work with as content specialist and UX consultant, there is a common misconception and fear of getting accessibility ‘right’. And by this I also mean getting inclusion and diversity ‘right’. Whether this is fear of saying or doing the ‘wrong thing’ or not knowing what formats to use and when, there is, I am sorry to say, still a definite resistance to fully signing up to accessibility. 

In training sessions I spend at least half my time reassuring people that accessibility is not some unknown mysterious blocker to fear. Yes it can be challenging but it’s also something that makes absolute and unequivocal sense. If you make content and design services that are easy to access, more people will engage which leads to a wider ripple effect of inclusion across society. Feeling valued matters and by designing services that are accessible, we can make a difference to so many people.

Being more accessible needn’t cost the earth

There are small adjustments that can be made that don’t cost anything at all - except perhaps by investing a little more time. For example, make sure images are tagged in alt text so a screen reader can understand them. Look again at colour contrasts in both design and text so that someone with a visual impairment can see them more clearly. Script visual content in a clear way, removing jargon and adding subtitles. Order content in a clear and easy way so that key messages can be understood by everyone. It really is as simple as that.

This year on Global Awareness Accessibility Day, why not stop and think about the smaller things you could do to make a difference. We all want to feel included so why not start on May 19th 2022. Together we can make the world a more accessible and inclusive place.

Not sure where to take your accessibility or inclusive design journey next? Let’s chat!

Kate is Senior UX and Content Consultant at cxpartners. Working mainly on government and charity accounts, Kate is an expert in designing and advising on accessible, inclusive information for different audiences.