The Basics of Integrating Accessibility with Design

Sshekhar Jha
April 25, 2022

Over the years, as the process of Designing apps has evolved, one simple fact has become increasingly transparent; that at every stage of the design process you as a designer need to stick to one simple principle: Usability for All.

Usability for all simply means that whatever you design should be equally easy to use for people of all abilities. Your design language must enable individuals of all abilities to engage and interact with your app in a simple seamless manner.

This gives rise to one simple question: What should you as an App Designer keep in mind while Integrating Accessibility for All into your Macro Design Philosophy.

In this article, we shall take a look at a few such elements.

1. Involve people who you’re designing for.

As a designer, you need to understand that making your app accessible goes beyond just adding a few features. It requires you to truly understand the smallest of challenges that specially-abled people may face or may have faced in their experience. 

The best way to gain insight into such issues is to involve people who face such challenges in the development process. Having them contribute to design elements, or involving them during demo sessions can provide very valuable feedback and help you focus on elements that you may otherwise miss out on.

It is imperative to ensure their involvement from the get-go. Don’t wait till the first iteration is complete to ponder over what accessibility elements to incorporate. 

2. Set Realistic Timelines.

This aspect has got less to do with the design process per se and has more to do with how you can maximize your capacity to design your products in a truly accessible way.

It takes time. There are no two ways about it. It requires precision to a minimal degree and needs a dedicated team with ample resources, including time. So be wary of committing to timelines that may hamper your approach to build, test and execute elements that aid accessible interactions with your app.

There has to be cohesion between the Product, Design, and Development teams to achieve completely synergize the process and give each team ample leg-room to weed out any kinks or conduct thorough testing. Go back to the drawing board as many times as necessary, but be completely satisfied that you checked all your boxes. Then release your product.

3. Nail your Day 0 Brief.

Making apps accessible to everyone should not be a supplement to your design language, philosophy, and process. Rather it needs to be slam-bang in the middle with all other must-haves in your app. 

Your mission statement should reflect that you’re building an app that is seamlessly accessible to anyone who chooses to use it so that your efforts to make the app accessible don’t come across as an add-on, but rather feel like it’s imbued right in the center of your design process.

Testing accessibility elements needs to be a top 3 priority. Run multiple iterations, with different sample demographic groups, inculcate their feedback, as much as possible, and only then would you achieve true harmony in your design.

4. Maintain Your Course.

The biggest litmus test for design teams comes after the product has launched. That is when for the first time, you get to hear user feedback.

At this stage, the only thing you need to do is listen. Listen to what they liked, and triple down on making it better. Listen to what they felt was missing, and create a path to incorporate that, if feasible. Listen to what they felt was a less-than-useful element, which they could do without. Have the strength to remove it, no matter how hard a pill it may be to swallow.

Most of all, Listen to what they don’t say. That’s where the real insights are. Teams that are able to perceive what users want but can’t verbalize are the ones that end up making industry-altering products for everyone.

Listen. Build. Test. Repeat. That’s 90% of your bases covered.

At its heart, the concept of Integrating Accessibility into Design carries one simple motivation: Building with Empathy. That’s the game, and those who understand this simple philosophy end up creating products that change the way people perceive apps, and how they engage with them.

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