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Designing for Diversity: Accessibility in the Product Development Lifecycle – Part 3 of 4

Product teams should be keen to understand how people interact with digital content and media. For one, web users’ interactions with website content changes over time. Two, it changes by situation. And three, it changes by ability. For example, what a web user can do in her 20’s, such as navigating web pages with a mouse, is impossible later in life. When teams overlook these factors, they inevitably create inaccessible experiences for all web users.

So where to start?

Product team members must adopt the W3C’s four “POUR” principles of inclusive design (perceivable, operable,understandable, and robust). These principles are the foundation of accessible web design. It helps product teams empathize with web users with disabilities. And it guides teams to design for their adaptive strategies, abilities, and assistive technologies.

At first designing with these principles in mind is challenging. Keep these shortcuts handy to make inclusive digital experiences. They are not every example though! Visit the W3C’s site for a complete analysis of POUR.

  • Perceivable: Content is presented in more than one format (e.g., an image, diagram, icon, etc.). Provide transcripts. Use simple layouts.
  • Operable: Functionality is available by keyboard and other input types (e.g., a mobile phone, mouth stick, etc.). Give users enough time to read and use content. Give users control over motion (e.g., carousel, video, etc.).
  • Understandable: Content is clear, familiar, and simple. Web pages look and work predictably (e.g., links presented consistently). Help users avoid and correct their mistakes (e.g., an error message).
  • Robust: Maximize fit with current and future technologies like different screen readers (e.g., VoiceOver, NVDA, Talkback, etc.)

Next, obsess over users’ behaviors

People have different interaction styles and settings, preferred operating systems and browsers, and various input methods (e.g., touch, voice, etc.). Start by asking a series of questions. Which user experiences do they want improved and barriers removed? Which technologies do they use? How and why are they using them? Take a look at the User Story of Ali. It’s a snapshot of designing for disability.

Also consider these essential questions. Keep them handy and refer to them often:

  • Is web content presented in more than one format in our user interface designs? Can our web users access it from different devices and through voice, vision, touch and/or hearing?
    • In other words, are web pages, user interface components, and content perceivable and robust?
  • Did we add transcripts, captioning, and audio descriptionsto live and prerecorded content for hard-of-hearing web users, and users with learning disabilities?
    • In other words, is time-based media perceivable and understandable?
  • Can people with disabilities tab through our website? Can they use screen readers and voice activated devices to access digital content? Did we give them enough time?
    • In other words, are web pages, content, and user interface components operable?
  • Do our mobile websites look and behave like they do on a larger screen? Is Zoom enabled for low vision users?
  • Did we remove a user’s control over her interactions? Are we preventing her from viewing or accessing content as needed when it’s needed?
    • In other words, did we ensure web pages are perceivable and operable?

Embrace diversity

It’s almost impossible to create inclusive user experiences without embracing the diversity of web users and their stories. This blog scratches the surface of designing for disability. To go further, check out Designing Accessible Digital Experiences Begins with Personas and User Stories, and the W3C’s Stories of Web Users; it has extensive guidance on how people with disabilities use the web.

Stay tuned for the final installment of our 4-part series “Evaluating Accessibility in the Product Development Lifecycle” coming soon. Check out Part 1 Plan to be Accessible by Design: Accessibility in the Product Development Lifecycle and Part 2 Define Initial Requirements: Accessibility in the Product Development Lifecycle.

So, What Comes Next?

For those businesses looking to obtain more insights on website accessibility, Perficient has created a set of information to help.

For more information contact our digital accessibility experts today.

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Lisa McMichael

Lisa McMichael is a Senior Manager Digital Accessibility, CPACC with the Detroit Business Unit.

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