Developing Accessible and Inclusive Digital Tools

In today's world, the internet and technology are everywhere. They touch almost every part of our life. This makes creating digital tools that everyone can use very important. But, how do we make digital experiences that work for all? How can we make sure they empower every user, no matter their abilities or life backgrounds?

This article looks at the key ideas and actions for making digital tools and websites that are easy for all to use. We begin with the POUR principles of accessibility. And we also talk about tackling the wide range of disabilities and ways of thinking. This article will show businesses how to make digital projects that give everyone a fair chance online.1

Key Takeaways

  • Accessibility and inclusivity are essential for creating digital experiences that work for everyone.
  • Embracing the full spectrum of human diversity, including disabilities and neurodiversities, is key to building truly inclusive digital experiences.
  • Implementing inclusive design practices, such as identifying exclusion and addressing unconscious biases, can lead to more accessible and equitable digital solutions.
  • Investing in accessible and inclusive digital tools can deliver substantial benefits, including increased audience reach, enhanced user experience, and mitigated legal risks.
Developing Accessible and Inclusive Digital Tools

The Importance of Digital Inclusion

Digital inclusion means making the internet and tech easy to use for everyone.2 It's about creating content that's easy to understand, fixing issues like bad connection, lack of skills, and making the web welcoming.2 Everyone should have the tools they need to join in online without any barriers.2

What is Digital Inclusion?

Digital inclusion is ensuring everyone can safely and fully use digital tools, no matter where they are.2 It's making sure that people and communities have what they need to benefit from these technologies.2

Digital Inclusion and Digital Equity

Digital equity means that everyone has the tech they need to be part of the online community.2 But, not having it can make some people feel left out. It can also make social and economic issues worse.2 Many Americans still don't have good internet access, which shows a big gap in who's online and who isn't.3 This gap is often seen in those who are poor, old, disabled, or in need, highlighting the importance of closing it.3

Why is Digital Inclusion Important for Businesses?

Being online has changed how we work, communicate, and find information.2 For companies, it's opened pathways to new customers and cost-saving opportunities.2 The pandemic made it clear just how essential digital services are, with most Americans leaning on the internet.2 Businesses that make being online inclusive and accessible can enjoy these benefits more widely. They can offer better experiences and avoid legal issues.2

Principles of Accessibility: Understanding 

Accessibility underpins designing for everyone, especially those with disabilities, through the principles. These ensure web content is Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust.4

Perceivable

All persons should easily perceive web content under Perceivable necessities.5 Using more than one sense means those with impairments in areas like sight or hearing can still understand the content.5

Operable

Operable guidelines stress being able to interact using only a keyboard.5 This is key for people who have physical disabilities or rely on assistive tech.6

Understandable

Make content clear and site operation easy to follow under Understandable.5 This aids users with conditions that affect how they process info or language use.

Robust

Being Robust means content works well with different assistive devices.5 It ensures the site stays user-friendly over time and through tech changes.

The POUR principles help make digital spaces welcoming to everyone. By following these, we create experiences accessible to various abilities.4

Understanding Disabilities and Neurodiversity

It's key to understand the different ways people interact online.7 This includes those with visual, hearing, and physical challenges. It also covers people with cognitive or neurological issues, like autism.7 Even temporary problems, such as a broken arm, affect web use. To offer the best online experiences, it's important to include everyone, from neurodiverse to everyone else. This way, we ensure everyone gets fair access to the web.

8 About 15-20% of the world's population has a neurodivergent condition.8 These can be Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, or Tourette Syndrome. Each affects how a person thinks and behaves differently.

8 For some neurodiverse people, certain web features can be tough to handle. These include loud sounds, complicated layouts, and a lot of text.8 Making online content more accessible is crucial. This means removing digital barriers that hinder people with different thinking patterns from enjoying online spaces.

8 The blog offers 7 ways to make websites more welcoming to neurodiverse individuals. These include learning more, checking and improving online content, adding accessibility features, and making designs inclusive. It also suggests holding educational events and supporting the neurodivergent community.

8 Neurodiversity Awareness Month reminds us to keep working towards digital accessibility for all.8 UserWay, as mentioned in the blog, provides tools to make the web more inclusive. It stresses the importance of celebrating diversity online.

7 About 1 in 5 people worldwide have a disability. This number jumps to cover 70% of the global economy when including families.7 Over a billion people around the world are living with disabilities. Most of these disabilities are not visible, and 20-25% are neurodiverse.7 A large number of young people wish to work for companies that are inclusive. More than half of consumers are ready to spend their money in support of diversity and inclusion.7 And, 65% believe that promoting diversity and inclusion is crucial for the brands they choose.

Digital Inclusion

Evaluating Web Accessibility

Making digital tools and web apps accessible is key for everyone to use them. Luckily, there are many strong tools to check and fix issues. This allows users of all abilities to enjoy the online world.

Google's Lighthouse

Google's Lighthouse is an open-source tool for checking web pages. It looks at how easy sites are to use and their speed, among other things.9 It gives detailed feedback and tips to improve, helping developers make better sites for everyone.9

WebAIM's WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools

WebAIM has the WAVE tool for assessing web content's accessibility.9 It gives specific advice on making pages better. This guidance helps developers make their sites easier for all to use.9

Deque's axe Accessibility Testing Tools

Deque's axe offers tools to check accessibility as developers work.9 These tools guide in meeting high accessibility standards. So, all users can enjoy their websites.9

With the right accessibility tools, developers can make digital products for everyone. This improves user experience and grows their audience. Making the web more inclusive is beneficial for all.

Developing Accessible and Inclusive Digital Tools

Designing digital tools and web apps to be accessible and inclusive is key. Doing so offers many benefits. It broadens your audience, improves user experiences, and lowers legal risks.

Use Semantic HTML Elements

By using semantic HTML elements (like headings, lists, and forms), you make your content easier to navigate.10 This not only helps people using assistive tech but it also boosts your site's organization and SEO.

Make Your Site Keyboard-Friendly

It's important that your website can be fully used with a keyboard.10 This helps people with physical limitations or who prefer keyboard use. It meets important accessibility standards.

Ensure Sufficient Color Contrast

Having good color contrast is crucial for those with vision impairments. It allows them to see and read your content.10 Following color contrast guidelines also makes your site more visually appealing and readable.

Provide Alternatives for Media

Offering text alternatives, like captions and audio descriptions, make your media accessible to everyone.10 This means more people, including those with disabilities, can engage with your content.

Include Captions and Alt Text

Having captions for media and descriptive alt text for images is a must.10 This makes sure users with visual or hearing impairments can understand your multimedia content. They show you're dedicated to making your site accessible to all.

Incorporating these practices in your digital projects makes them welcoming for everyone. This helps create a fairer online world. Explore more resources for accessible digital design here.

Accessibility Metric Findings
Automated Testing Coverage Less than 30% of potential accessibility issues are uncovered by automated testing tools.10
Accessibility Testing Tools Level Access and Deque offer tools like Continuum and axe DevTools for identifying accessibility issues early in development.10
Importance of Manual Evaluation A manual/functional evaluation is crucial as automated testing alone cannot ensure compliance with accessibility standards.10
Accessibility Resources Accessibility resources include industry standard Maturity Models like DAMM by Level Access and Accessibility Evolution Model by Microsoft.10
Accessibility Standards UVA follows the WCAG 2.2 AA standard, emphasizing the importance of developing accessible and inclusive digital tools.10
Prioritizing Accessibility Assessing the accessibility of existing digital assets requires understanding the digital footprint and prioritizing high-traffic or critical assets.10
Accessibility Testing Tools Tools for testing accessibility include WAVE by WebAIM, HTML Validator extensions, aViewer, and more.10
Accessibility Services Industry consultants and tools such as AccessibilityOz, Deque, The Paciello Group, and Level Access provide expert accessibility services.10
Accessibility Overlays Overlays and widgets for web accessibility are advised against, as they do not provide comprehensive solutions.10

Inclusive Design Practices

Creating digital tools for all involves more than meeting accessibility requirements. It's crucial to understand that tech might leave some people out by accident.3 Addressing these hidden barriers is key to designing with empathy and inclusivity in mind.

Identifying Exclusion

Understanding and tackling bias in digital product creation is vital.3 Unintentional biases can block the path to crafting solutions that are truly accessible and inclusive.

Uncovering Unconscious Biases

To make truly inclusive products, thorough research into various users' needs is needed.3 Working closely with a diverse user base provides deep insights and helps spot biases early on.

Gather Feedback From Diverse Audiences

Showing empathy means picturing the world through the eyes of those who might feel left out.3 It's about understanding how different people, especially those with disabilities, might use your product.

Recognize How Marginalized Users are Being Excluded

Learning from research and user feedback, we can pinpoint just what marginalized users need.3 This knowledge is the first step towards designing truly inclusive and accessible products.

Identify the Needs of Your Users

Follow these steps to ensure your digital tools are open to all, no matter their abilities. This comprehensive design process is critical for a fair and easy-to-use online world.

Benefits of Inclusive Digital Tools

Creating tools that everyone can access is good for both the company and its users. It opens doors to more people, including those with special needs. This helps to grow the audience for a product or service.11

Enhances User Experience

Thinking about accessibility and inclusivity leads to better designs. These streamlined and user-friendly designs make everyone's experience better. It doesn't matter what abilities they have.11

Fosters Community and Equality

Following accessibility standards builds a sense of fairness for all users. It makes people feel like they belong. This fosters community and equality on the platform.11

Mitigates Legal Risks

Meeting the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and ADA requirements can prevent legal issues. Businesses can avoid lawsuits and fines.11

Improves Brand Recognition

Companies that are inclusive stand out. Users like to support such businesses. Inclusive design can boost a company's reputation and recognition.11

Enhances Search Engine Optimization

Google and other search engines prefer websites that are accessible to all. If a site is not accessible, it can hurt its ranking.11

Inclusive Design in Practice

This section shows how businesses and groups use inclusive design in their digital work. Their efforts have made digital spaces more welcoming for everyone. They have also seen good results for their business.12

Take Microsoft, for example. They work hard to make their products for all. Their team talks with people who have different needs to make things better.13

The Xbox Adaptive Controller is a great outcome of their work. It helps gamers who can't use standard controllers play more easily. Microsoft's Office tools also have added features for those with special needs. These tools include live captions and better ways to move around the program.3

Then there's Airbnb. They have worked a lot on making their website and app easier for people with special needs. Their team listens to people with disabilities to understand their problems. They've added features like better filters and detailed info to help users find the right place to stay.12

These changes mean a lot for people with disabilities. They can now find places to stay more easily. It has also helped Airbnb get closer to this community and be more liked.12

Airbnb being so open to everyone has really paid off. People support their efforts more because of this. Their approach to helping everyone has made them stand out.12

These cases show how much good inclusive design can do. It helps companies grow by reaching more people. It also makes digital spaces more fair for everyone.12

Conclusion

Making digital tools accessible and inclusive has many advantages. It's the right thing to do and it helps businesses and their users.14 By using accessible design and knowing about different abilities, companies can make digital products for everyone. This effort helps build a better sense of community and makes the company stand out as a leader in caring for all users.14,15 Since we rely on digital tools more every day, creating inclusive ones is very important. It gives companies a chance to lead and improves their competitiveness.14,15

Accessible tools open up a wider market by including users with disabilities.15 They often result in designs that are easier for all to use. This improves the experience for everyone, not just those with special needs.15 By focusing on accessibility and inclusivity, businesses show they care about their users equally. This sends a powerful message of community and equality.15

Following accessibility guidelines like WCAG and the ADA can avoid legal troubles for businesses.15 Users also like companies that cater to everyone. This support for inclusivity can boost a company's public image.15 In addition, Google rewards user-friendly and inclusive websites with better search result rankings. This shows why being inclusive in digital tools is critical.15

POUR principles

FAQ

What is digital inclusion?

Digital inclusion means making the web accessible to all without barriers. It's about supporting people with disabilities to use digital tools. It also tackles issues like lack of internet, digital skills, and easy-to-use websites.

What is the difference between digital inclusion and digital equity?

Digital equity is when everyone can meet their tech needs to take part online. It is related to, but slightly different from, digital inclusion. Not having equity can lead to people being left out and more problems for society.

Why is digital inclusion important for businesses?

A: The internet has changed how we work, share info, look for jobs, and talk. It's been a big help for companies too, making it easier to reach new customers and cut costs. By focusing on making their online spaces accessible, businesses can improve customer experiences and avoid legal issues.

What are the principles of accessibility?

Accessibility is Based on Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust principles:

  • Perceivable - Information must be clear, no matter who is looking (or not looking).
  • Operable - Users should move through a website easily, even if they only use a keyboard.
  • Understandable - Content should be simple and predictable to understand.
  • Robust - It should work well with various tools, like screen readers, used to help people access the web.

What types of disabilities and neurodiversities affect web usage?

A: Various conditions impact how we use the web. These can be from visual, hearing, physical, or cognitive challenges. This covers everything from being unable to see well, to finding it hard to read, to struggling to move a mouse. It also considers how things change temporarily, like when you hurt your hand.

What are some tools for evaluating web accessibility?

Some tools to check a website's accessibility are:

  • Google's Lighthouse - It reviews how well a site follows web standards and is well-performing.
  • WebAIM's WAVE Tools - These can dig into your web content and discover how accessible it really is.
  • Deque's axe Tools - Perfect for those who build websites, as they integrate into the design process to fix issues early on.

What are some best practices for developing accessible and inclusive digital tools?

To make digital tools accessible:

  • Choose HTML elements wisely to build a website that's easy to get around.
  • Design for easy keyboard use, not just mouse clicks.
  • Pick colors that don't strain the eyes and let everyone read easily.
  • Always have a plan B for non-text content, like videos or images.
  • Add captions and alt text to videos or pictures for those who can't hear or see well.

What are the key benefits of inclusive digital tools?

A: Inclusive digital tools offer many pluses:

  • They reach more people, from various disabilities to different tech setups.
  • They make using websites and apps a better experience for everyone.
  • They foster a welcoming vibe and spread fairness by meeting accessibility rules.
  • They keep you out of legal trouble by following accessibility laws.
  • They boost your brand and how well you show up in search results by being open to all.

Source Links

  1. https://digital-accessibility.northeastern.edu/guides-and-resources/
  2. https://www.un.org/techenvoy/sites/www.un.org.techenvoy/files/general/Definition_Digital-Inclusion.pdf
  3. https://www.worldforgottenchildren.org/blog/the-importance-of-digital-accessibility-and-inclusive-design/196
  4. https://aem.cast.org/create/designing-accessibility-pour
  5. https://www.w3.org/WAI/fundamentals/accessibility-usability-inclusion/
  6. https://www.w3.org/WAI/fundamentals/accessibility-principles/
  7. https://www.orange.com/en/magazines/disability-neurodiversity-how-can-digital-technology-become-more-inclusive
  8. https://userway.org/blog/neurodivergent-people/
  9. https://www.w3.org/WAI/fundamentals/accessibility-intro/
  10. https://academicaccessibility.virginia.edu/developing-skills/accessible-websites-digital-tools
  11. https://www.lithiosapps.com/blog/the-importance-of-digital-accessibility-creating-inclusive-software
  12. https://www.fullstackacademy.com/blog/benefits-of-inclusive-design
  13. https://www.tpgi.com/what-is-inclusive-design-and-how-does-it-relate-to-accessibility-part-1/
  14. https://futurice.com/blog/accessible-digital-services-are-an-essential-part-of-an-inclusive-world
  15. https://www.handtalk.me/en/blog/digital-accessibility/

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