Accessibility is concerned with whether all users are able to access an equivalent user experience. It’s also a legal requirement. Starting 2022, accessibility within Europe will be prominent within the digital industry. On top of the WCAG rulings, the European Accessibility Act (EAA) published in June makes sure it’s on the agenda.
Why are we reluctant if it’s good for business?
Accessibility is the concept of whether a product or service can be used by everyone, however they encounter it. It’s associated with laws that exist to aid people with disabilities. Over 1 billion people live with some form of disability. But it’s about more. We all have a disability at some point.
Yes, it’s also a legal requirement. Starting 2022, accessibility within Europe will be prominent within the digital industry. On top of the WCAG rulings, the European Accessibility Act (EAA) published in June makes sure it’s on the agenda. But still, to make a site or campaign accessible, has benefits for all.
Why are we reluctant?
Accessibility vs Usability
They are often confused. This makes sense because they also often overlap. Both are vital parts of user experience (UX) design.
Still, usability is concerned with whether designs are effective, efficient and satisfying to use. In theory, this would require it to be accessible. Accessibility, on the other hand, is concerned with whether all users are able to access an equivalent user experience, however they encounter a product or service.
If they are taken into account, this should translate into better SEO, wider audiences and a more positive public image for your brand.
Types of disabilities and accessible layouts
Disabilities can be incidental (e.g., sleep-deprivation), Environmental (e.g., using a mobile device underground), Genetic (e.g being born blind), amongst others. This means they are not always permanent. A slow internet connection, bright sunlight or a loud environment where audio can’t be heard, are all temporary disabilities. If we take temporary or context induced handicaps into account, it affects almost all our audiences at some point in space and time.
Which is why an accessible layout should be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.
- Perceivable: the site should be able to be explored in different ways. Closed captions for a video, for example.
- Operable: the site should function without the use of a mouse or complex interactions.
- Understandable: at first glance, site functions and information should be easy to grasp.
- Robust: assistive devices, like screen readers, should understand the website.
All this is later translated to clean layouts of images and text. Hierarchy of information. Key features, and functions displayed “above the fold.” Screen size design in mind, people use both mobile and desktop. Menu structures.
Accessibility and localization
Asides from this, there is a localization component to accessibility. Accessible design is how easily people can use your website. And websites are not used the same way all over the world. Word choice, icons, preferred formats, scrolling patterns, vary.
It shows empathy towards the users to localize your campaigns and sites. When SEO keywords are chosen for each target and geolocation. When there is a feeling you are talking to them “in their own words”. When layouts respond to what is most familiar. Even to avoid non-specific terms that are more or less good for everyone. And replace them with clear facts.
From a language point of view, we propose a wide variety of solutions.
Some quick wins are transcriptions for audio resources, captions/subtitles for video. The use of dubbing for translations to not lose the personal touch.
Also, many don’t know, but the WCAG 2.0 includes several criteria pertaining to language and multilingualism. English is by no means the only language used on websites: other languages such as Spanish and Mandarin Chinese each have hundreds of millions of users online. So the act requires that the language of every page on the website is “programmatically determined” by software such as screen readers. In practice, this means the main language of the page and any changes in language should be noted. It demands users have a way to identify potentially unfamiliar words, such as idioms, jargon, and abbreviations. And that when a word’s pronunciation is ambiguous in context (such as the present and past tenses of the verb read), the website explicitly identifies the word’s correct pronunciation.
So why be accessible?
For legal, inclusive, reputational and UX reasons.
Domino’s once lost in the U.S. Supreme Court, who declared that any digital platform which is tied to a physical location providing goods or services should also comply with accessibility standards. This was a blow to their budget and reputation.
Audiences esteem brands that do the right thing. Especially the ones that form the biggest proportion of the global consumer base: Millennials and Generation Z.
And since Google wants to deliver only the best search results to its users, search engine crawlers are also interested in the user experience of your website and rank it according to its usability.
This aside, it’s plain decency and common sense to try to be open to more people. No matter where and how. If you need a hand doing so, you can always contact our language solutions team at Stillman’s.
If you would like to learn more about this topic go to “The Impact Of Translation On The User Experience (UX)”