Architects have to consider how to accommodate people with disabilities on a regular basis. For example, how do you build a staircase that can also accommodate someone using a wheelchair, or other forms of mobility issues?
By the same token, there are lots of ways to think about building a website or web application with accessibility in mind. One way is to think about it from the perspective of passing a compliance checklist for a desired level of Section 508 or WCAG 2 compliance. Another, more holistic way to think about accessibility is as a constraint that should be embraced, in much the same way designing for touch screens or building for mobile devices is part of our approach to designing digital products.
Over the course of their lifetime, most people with have either a situational, temporary, or permanent disability. Understanding and embracing this as a core audience need ensures that we take this constraint seriously and with empathy. Taking this point of view ensures accessibility isn’t something bolted on, or patched after product development is complete, but rather something considered in every phase of a project.
As part of our research, we aim to add users with assistive technology needs to our research sessions. For content strategy, we write clear labels and explanations for people using assistive devices. We create color combinations that work for low vision and color blindness scenarios. On-screen interactions built for people with both vision and motor skill challenges. Our engineering team writes code that is optimized for screen reader users as part of an initial build, rather than as a later bug fix.
Taking this approach ensures we’re taking a universal approach to designing with accessibility in mind. The result means we can build a beautiful functional onramp for all, rather than bolting on a wheelchair ramp after the steps have already been built.