Accessibility 101

Who Benefits From Accessibility?

Accessible technology benefits people with disabilities, by enabling them to participate more fully, and with greater autonomy in everyday tasks like shopping, following the news, enjoying online media, studying, and working.  Although there is no template for disability, there are many people who can benefit from accessible technology:

  • People with visual impairments, including color blindness, low-vision, and blindness
  • People with auditory impairments, including deafness and diminished hearing
  • People with mobility impairments, including paralysis, neuromuscular conditions, arthritis, stroke, etc.
  • People with cognitive impairments, including ADHD, learning disabilities, dyslexia, etc.
  • People with age-related impairments, changing abilities, temporary injuries, etc.
  • People with seizure disorders

But accessible technology does not only benefit users with disabilities.  All users can benefit from accessible technology.  Think about it—ramps and curb cuts benefit blind pedestrians, but they also help people pushing strollers and dollies and bikes.  Automatic doors are easier to operate for people with mobility impairments, but they also are a boon to a person whose arms are full of groceries. Elevators enable people with mobility impairments to move from floor to floor, but many ambulatory people use them instead of the stairs.

On a website, alternative text provides image information for non-visual users, and it also benefits users who read tooltips, use a text-only browser, or can't use images due to enhanced security.  For presentations and documents, high contrast color palettes help users with low vision to distinguish content, but theyo also are useful to users in poorly lit environments.  Online video captions can provide the same benefit to a user in a loud environment that they provide to a deaf user.  Registration form labels make it easier to activate adjacent form fields, a boon to those whose fingers are too large for their small screen. 

Others who may benefit from accessible technology might include:

  • People in distracting environments, such as the bus, the gym, or another noisy public location
  • People with low literacy skills, non-native language speakers
  • People consuming information with difficult, complex, or specialized terminology
  • Mobile and small-screen users
  • Inexperienced technology users

The benefits of accessible technology extend far beyond those experienced by users with disabilities. Consider the technology you provide and support.

Thought Exercise:

How might applying accessibility principles to your technology make it better and more useful for everyone?