5 Things To Do While Building Accessible Products

Tarveen Kaur July 5, 2018
Accessibility levels the playing field and allows everyone to participate in an experience. But accessibility requires careful thought and intentionality. When product creators and designers keep accessibility at the forefront of the building process, then all users regardless of disability can benefit from the product. In particular, building accessible products requires five distinct qualities. 1. A Deep Understanding of Accessibility within teams As the product teams conceive new products, or review existing ones for accessibility, they will need to be conversant with deep knowledge of accessibility. So, work towards developing a strong foundational understanding of accessibility and the standards that align with it. Help your team to understand the standards established by WCAG and ADA and develop solutions to apply in the content they are developing. A fluent understanding of these requirements is a must for both authors and developers. Create a corporate culture of empathy. Valuing the experiences of each person enables creators and designers to work from a mindset of compassion and understanding. As they work, accessibility becomes a natural priority because it allows everyone to access the product, rather than a series of checklists that must be checked off. Network with consultants who are experts in building accessible products. As you work with companies and individuals who understand the complexities of accessibility, you can be confident throughout the entire journey of your product. Since this might take time, under pressure of timelines, engage with expert accessibility consultants and put them in the project teams. 2. Define your own detailed guidelines Keeping WCAG 2.1 standards as the guiding rule, develop organization wide standards of how to implement accessibility across product lines. With thoughtful intentionality, create a strategy and system for applying these standards in all products from step one and onwards. Establishing company-wide standards for the product line will ease the design process. It is crucial to understand how the product will fit into your pre-established criteria for accessibility. Accessibility is a design parameter, affecting your scope and sequence for the entire project. Incorporating expert accessibility designers into the process will ensure a quality product. By partnering with these experts, you will benefit from their in-depth understanding throughout the process. 3. Engage with differently abled talent pool Strategically engaging people with disabilities has benefits that far outweigh any costs that may occur. The best way to understand how to design a product better is to work with the people who need it! Hiring people for your company who have diverse life experiences will add a richness to your product design. Product building will be stronger if people with disabilities are a part of the process. Hearing their first-hand experience as they navigate through life will enable your team to fine-tune the product to make it more accessible to others. 4. Leverage Robust Frameworks & Tools Do not reinvent the wheel. Capitalizing on the skills, knowledge, and tools of others in the field will strengthen your product. No one tool or framework will be a direct match, but it will give you a head start and set you in the right direction. As you customize existing processes and structures, you can deliver on a shortened timeline and at reduced costs. This strategy is advantageous for all parties involved. 5. Test with differently abled “You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” This American proverb quickly summarizes the importance of understanding the experience of a person with a disability. Instead of creating a complex series of hoops to simulate life with a disability, it is best to work directly with individuals who have a disability. Multiple non-profit organizations and communities are interested and willing to be a part of your initiative. Reach out to them and discover how you can network together to make your product more accessible. The benefits from this investment will be long-lasting, both for your business as well as for individual relationships. Finally, creating accessible products requires a certain degree of finesse, as you navigate the work of future thinking with the legacy content of the past. Legacy content can comprise hundreds and even thousands of PDFs, Word Docs, Powerpoint presentations and Flash content. As your team works to integrate this material into the new, fully accessible product, it is crucial to be strategic in your focus. Choose a few essential samples that are representative of your collection and share them with your implementation team. As the team works on these audited pieces, they will be able to fix issues in entire segments of the portfolio. Implementing your strategy in this way is both efficient and economical! Designing for accessibility is never easy, as the work and creativity involved are immense. However, the potential that’s unleashed as individuals use your products efficiently and successfully will spur on your work for years to come. Magic EdTech’s expertise in this area can enable you in building better, more accessible products. Contact us and we will be happy get on a call to discuss further!

Tarveen Kaur

Accessibility Practice Lead at Magic EdTech, Tarveen is actively engaged in building new class digital accessibility solutions for education.