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Have Alternatives Ready Incase of Inaccessible Technology

silhouette of person talking into headset and looking at computer screen

A360 believes that every effort should be made to create fully accessible sites and apps. But even in the best cases, and certainly as stop-gap measures, there is always the need for alternative means to complete any task and find information. Even the most accessible sites may not support every user, so options like telephone help or web chat are critical anytime we rely on technology. Let me give you a real-life example of what I mean:

In December, I went on a cruise. As a blind person, I have always been excluded from many activities on past cruises because the activities were printed on a piece of paper handed out to the stateroom each night. However, on this trip the ship’s staff said “you can find the cruise schedule right within the app.” The cruise line went on to say that we could make reservations and see critical ship information within the same app. I thought this was wonderful! I’d finally be able to fully participate.

But it was too good to be true and I found myself more excluded than before. A lot of information was only available within the app, which was completely inaccessible. Furthermore, the staff was not so sympathetic, since they saw I had a smartphone with me, and couldn’t understand why I had trouble receiving some of the information through the app.

And to complicate the situation, with these kinds of apps and situations (even if it is as simple as a piece of paper), there are no substitutes. With a typical weather app, for example, if a disabled user cannot access it, they will install an app from a competitor. But in this case, there was no substitute.

Back to my story: I spent a lot of time in my stateroom because I could not reserve spots at the ship’s activities. Of course, other passengers helped me out, but it was not the same, full, and equal access that everyone else had. In the end, I felt forced to give the cruise low numbers on its feedback survey, simply because I was not able to enjoy all the amenities.

The results of situations like this is less value for the cost of your service, whatever your service may be, and less enjoyment. When any important tool is not accessible to users with disabilities, they can be locked out of not just the app or other features, but of the entire experience. An app can be designed to have very good UX (user experience) for most users, but accessibility should still be a design requirement when building any communication tool. This is especially true when requiring the use of inaccessible technology without offering any alternatives.

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