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Ensuring That Accessibility Compliance Equals Full Access

Kiosk at McDonald's

Many people take things for granted. For example, a sighted person can see a red line on a site or an app, but may not think about the fact that a blind user cannot see that red line. When designing apps and services to be accessible, it is important to ensure that the complete service is accessible, not simply the digital properties that comprise this service.

To illustrate this point, imagine yourself (as a blind person) walking into a restaurant. The restaurant’s app is accessible, which gives you hope that you will be able to complete the process on your own. But there are no cashiers. So, you are left walking around until a fellow customer tells you that you are supposed to use the ordering machines in the back corner. When you eventually bump into every table looking for these machines, you find that there is no screen reader. You are not able to access this technology, so you cannot place your order. You walk out, and the restaurant has lost your business, because they did not make their equipment accessible.

Many small things can be done to ensure that this issue does not happen, and that companies don’t lose business because of inaccessible equipment. For example, if there is a piece of hardware that goes along with the app, can this hardware be used without being able to see? Without being able to hear? By a person in a wheelchair? Many small hardware devices use small LCD screens and lights to communicate information. This information will not be available to blind users, so if possible, show the information in an accessible form in the app. If that is not possible, ensure that the information is available tactilely or auditorily.

Physical spaces can also be a barrier to people with many different types of disabilities. Many of the same design considerations can be applied from the web to physical spaces. Are lines and instructions only being denoted visually? Is it possible to go through the entire experience without being able to see? Without being able to hear? It is important to ensure that at self-service experiences, users with disabilities are able to go through the same experience as everyone else.

One class of users who are often overlooked, both on the web and in regards to physical spaces, is those with cognitive impairments. Many users have trouble reading and processing information in textual form, or doing math. It is often good to have two different modes of instructions at any given location to assist users who process information in different ways.

It is not overly difficult to make something accessible, whether that be a digital or a physical property. You must put yourself in the shoes of users with various disabilities and think: “Can I access this?”

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