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Why build accessible products? 5 misconceptions about accessibility that harm people and products

5 most deep-rooted misconceptions about accessibility


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Nadiya Abrosimova

3 years ago | 4 min read

Part 1

Every time I see those clean, fancy-looking user interfaces with light grey fonts and mind-blowing animations, it feels like something is missing there.

Beautiful interfaces delight users, but they aren’t the main goal that designers should be sticking to. Clean and polished user interfaces that miss crucial details don’t work for a large number of people.

It’s important to make a product applicable, handy, and inclusive for people with different abilities.

Now, I bet when you hear the term “accessibility,” you think of blindness, wheelchairs, and older people, and are pretty sure they are not your target audience. Well, not exactly.

Let’s discuss the most common misconceptions about accessibility so we don’t neglect it in our product designs.

Or, if you don’t believe in myth and misconceptions, you can go straight to this checklist I wrote on how to make your user interface more accessible

5 most deep-rooted misconceptions about accessibility

1. “I don’t work in healthcare”

We can’t consider accessibility as something that gets implemented in the software for “blind people”. There are plenty of conditions, and some people may not even be aware of their disorders.

For example, Vertigo (the type of dizziness that feels as if you or the world around you are spinning) affects 20- 40% of people at least once in a lifetime.

Animations can be a nightmare for people suffering from vestibular disorders, not even mentioning that they make content difficult to consume.

If there is anything in the design that can harm people, it must be avoided.

There is a wide range of disabilities and circumstances in which a product could be used.

If your product is not accessible for people with disabilities, they won’t use it, and we will lose a large number of potential customers.

2. “People with disabilities are not our target audience.”

In fact, there are over a billion people with some form of disability (about 15% of the world’s population) according to the World Health Organization. Color blindness affects approximately 1 in 12 men (8%) and 1 in 200 women in the world.

There are also people who broke an arm or lost glasses, so they are temporarily disabled. Furthermore, there are a bunch of situational limitations. Just to name a few:

  1. People using an app under bright sunlight or using a low-end monitor have the same limitations as people with visual disabilities.
  2. A person holding a baby has the same limitations as a person with physical disabilities.
  3. People with a slow internet connection or limited bandwidth have the same limitations as people with cognitive disabilities.
  4. People in the environment where they cannot listen to audio have the same limitations as people with auditory disabilities.

Moreover, there are also older people with changing abilities, people using different devices with small or extra big screens, 150 browsers with 50 combinations of preferences, and 24000 Android devices. There are 18 million possible ways in which your content can be displayed.

Are you sure that all the users of your product are using it only on iPhone 11 and don’t have any of the limitations listed above?

The circumstances may not be perfect for all, and this is why you need to design for accessibility.

3. “Accessible products are boring”

This type of misconception appears when someone misinterprets accessibility requirements. Accessibility is not about visual attractiveness. It is about making products universal so everybody could use them.

Accessibility doesn’t require you to delete all the images, icons, and animations and leave long lines of boring text. Quite the opposite. Long passages without illustrations or other interactive content may be really hard to read for people with cognitive disabilities.

Clear labels, legible typefaces, and carefully selected colors will only make the product look better and improve the quality of user experience.

4. “It’s good to have but it is still a low priority”

It’s true that optimizing an already existing product to meet accessibility standards is a complex and costly process which is why you need to make your interface accessible from the start.

Although it will definitely take time and effort from both designers and developers, making a product accessible from day one will reduce the costs of future maintenance and customer support.

Time and costs spent on accessibility is your investment in the future. When more people can use your product, it is better for marketing and for your brand reputation.

5. “This is a task for developers”

While it’s true that there is a lot of work that needs to be done by developers who are aware of accessibility techniques, all that concerns usability is a designer’s realm. Product managers, who understand the value of accessibility will contribute to making the product usable by all.

Accessibility standards should be clear to everyone in a product development team.

Now, when you understand how important it is to design a product with respect to accessibility principles, you can proceed to the second part of this article, where I wrote a checklist of the must-have accessible design elements.

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Nadiya Abrosimova

Product Designer in Healthcare.


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