The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that electronic information must be accessible to people with disabilities. This includes websites, mobile apps, software, and online documents.
You would be surprised to know that 15% of the world population suffers from permanent disability. That’s a big chunk of the population that you cannot afford to ignore.
You would not want a differently-abled user to abandon your product because there were no alt tags for images or no captions in videos; or worse, inability to navigate your website via keyboard.
Accessibility can be facilitated by a good design system. It sets the foundation for building inclusive and accessible digital experiences. So you will have to invest in accessibility education for people of all roles across your teams.
In case you have a functional and evolving design system in place, kudos to you. If not, read this article to see why the experts in the design community are emphasizing the design system so much and how to create one.
Educate Everyone About Accessibility
Matt May, the head of inclusive design at Adobe hosted many sessions from April 2019 to January 2020 with designers across Adobe. The purpose of these sessions is to spark conversations among the designers around accessibility.
What their potential users will face in absence of alt tags, mismatched contrast, see how assistive technology works, experience what it’s like to navigate a digital product using only a keyboard, the list is endless.
Accessibility has to take the front seat in every product that is designed and developed. One can not defer its implementation when an app or a website is nearing its launch.
We admit that we followed many workshops and have healthy discussions about increasing the scope of accessibility for all our clients’ projects.
Our resource reference range from Teach Access tutorials to WCAG 2.1 guideline and to courses on Lynda.com (Accessibility for Web Design by Derek Featherstone is high up on May’s recommendation list).
All these inputs are part of the design system and are not confined to designers only. Developers, testers, accessibility experts, PMs, all contribute to both design systems and accessibility.
Using Assistive Technology Yourself
Many of us know the functionality of assistive tech but haven’t used it to understand its nitty-gritty. You should try using screen readers, screen magnification tools, text to speech input, voice recognition software, etc.
This will help you understand where your diverse users may need assistance. Once the functionality of such tech is understood, it will be in your team’s mind right from the ideation stage of your product. Inclusivity will no longer be an afterthought, hereafter.
You can also disconnect your mouse from your system and use the arrow keys, enter shift button, space bar only to see if you can navigate your website. Take note of all the hurdles and keep a track of these in your design system.
Demonstrate all your expectations
A design system should have all the details about what is expected and what is not expected from product design. This sets the ground for comparison. It can be curated from your previous projects, competitors, or established guidelines.
Say if you were to show the ideal text and images of text contrast ratio should be of minimum 4.5:1, you will have to showcase what will happen when this is not adhered to. You can also see how it will impact users having poor eyesight, or are colorblind.
Keep all documentation updated
Your design system is a continuously evolving resource. The older your organization, the more changes can be done to it. But this is a central resource where you can see what all has changed, replaced, or even discarded over the years.
You can also use your design system to anticipate future trends and similarly mold yourself.
You need this system to be relevant in the present and future, thus you have to keep a check on the information being fed in it.
Use this checklist to determine where your digital experience stands in terms of being accessible.
Accessibility is not an afterthought! All your users will appreciate the ease of access, which will eventually reflect onto your business.
And in the process you get to unite your users and deliver an experience that sets you apart from your competitors and please all your users.