SPRINGBOX / Insights

Springbox Insights - Designing for Accessibility - Part One

by Springbox, September 23, 2014

As user experience professionals, we spend a lot of time planning user-centered, digital experiences for our clients. At Springbox, a huge part of that process — from kickoff to quality assurance — is accessibility. Not just for our higher education and government clients who are required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but for everyone on the web.

What is an accessible website?

Accessible websites are optimized for users with disabilities, meaning that the code and design provide access to people no matter their limitations. Accessibility aims to include considerations for visual, motor, auditory, seizures and cognitive limitations.

Not only does accessible design help our clients avoid legal liabilities (the National Federation of the Blind and the National Association of the Deaf won legal victories over Target and Netflix in 2012 over accessibility complaints), it provides a greater market share while promoting a digital culture of inclusion that many take for granted. As our digital capabilities grow every day, 54 million Americans with disabilities are relying on the web more and more for everything from the most basic communication needs to social integration and community engagement.

Why building accessible matters

We believe that building accessible experiences[AF3]  is not just a legal requirement. It’s a social justice issue that we take very seriously. We provide our clients with expert advice on making their existing sites accessible and creating new digital experiences across platforms from the beginning, as well as mentorship on how to get their teams up to speed for the future.

We know that making our products accessible is the right thing to do, but how do we prioritize it with our teams amidst dozens of other projects? How do we talk about the business benefits of digital inclusion? Starting to approach these questions can seem daunting at first, and since so many of our teams learn about accessibility when it’s time to design it, projects can seem difficult and unattainable.

How to make accessible attainable

Making your site accessible isn’t as hard as you might think. There’s a lot to consider, but finding a partner to provide guidance through the process is a wise investment for companies that don’t have in-house experts. As Target and Netflix have shown, it’s not just government and higher education sites that have an obligation to adhere to these standards, so consider the cost of fixing things and building internal knowledge vs. lawsuit - should be an easy decision.

Not to mention the additional market share you earn when you decide to make your site and its information accessible to the millions of Americans who would like to experience it. That goes for devices, too: a site built to accessible standards is more likely to work seamlessly on varied devices, so the traffic potential is significantly higher.

Over time, the preference and customer loyalty that comes with a user-centered, accessible website will be more beneficial than avoidance and retrofitting later. Your teams will know they’re participating in a very important issue that digital professionals should all be striving to master.

More to come

Over the next few months, I’ll be writing a series of accessibility articles here, covering more specific approaches and processes the Springbox team uses, as well as more information about the types of tools users need to access our work.

Have questions about where to start? Contact us.