Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) – First Step in the Right Direction
The guidelines ensured that the application is inclusive for people with disabilities and all users are able to successfully achieve their goals while interacting with the product. In a global population where roughly one in five people have some form of disability, a well-implemented application development standard can make a huge difference for all stakeholders.
The Need to go Beyond Guidelines
While the guidelines can be considered as a first step in the right direction, the ideology must be internalised amongst the product development teams – this makes the motivation to develop more accessible applications intrinsically driven.
When accessibility considerations are dictated by guidelines, quality improvement efforts would be fueled by prioritizing the requirements on the basis of expected impact and would be addressed at the end of a product’s design cycle.
A separate and unequal approach to achieving compliance leads to a solution that tends to be inferior in content and functionality and loses focus over time. Also, in this case, there are high chances that the quality of user experiences for people with disabilities could have very little impact on design considerations of the product.
Contrarily, having accessibility considerations from the start of designing an application has benefits beyond just being adherent to the guidelines – it brings in multiple business advantages too. There is also a spreading awareness in this front and companies are starting to capitalise on the potential opportunities.
Tapping the Untapped Market
According to the World Bank, 15% of the global population (1 million) suffer from some form of disability. Having a well-defined representation of the people with disabilities in the usage demographics, substantially increases the size of the target market. Since age is also a potential contributor to impairments, older people are also a user base that benefit through the accessibility features in the web application. ‘
While 15% of the population consists of older people, when web application users are considered, a meagre less than 2% are above the age of 55. There is a huge scope for improvement here – developing applications that are better designed for older people would open up an untapped market.
Engineering an accessible application, enhances the overall user experience as it might be a general benefit, for non-disabled users as well. For example, having captions allows the user to watch videos without turning the volume on – a feature that could be used for all sections of users.
According to a recent report, only 12% of instagram users watch their newsfeed videos with the sound on. Also, it is observed that the reach of a captioned video is 16% more than an uncaptioned one. Web Accessibility features thereby benefit users without any kind of disability too, subsequently increasing the reach of the content.
Internalising Accessibility from the Start
Intrinsically driven to develop accessible web applications, web designers and developers have started leveraging different usability processes, methods and techniques to solve user interface problems. While this is not always included in general practice, caring about people’s disabilities is slowly getting integrated into the design of the user experience.
With the growing realisation of such benefits, application development teams are starting to develop processes to include accessibility features in the design from the start of the product development cycle. For example, to identify the requisites to make the application more accessible, the product development team defines a list of requirements based on recommendations of convenience and practicality, also including the basic needs of users with disabilities. The requirements briefly describe the tasks associated with flexible development, and also point out existing tools and standards that would be helpful during the development process.
Users of all abilities benefit from sites and applications that are intuitive for everyone to understand and use. Internalising the accessibility requirements from the development phase of digital products and services is beginning to demonstrate a wide range of general benefits. Hence developing an application that is accessible to everyone is not a burden to be compliant, but an opportunity to be more profitable.