Digital inclusion and accessibility

“The power of the web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” – Tim Berners-Lee, Inventor of the World Wide Web and W3C Director.

Why does inclusion matter?

It is impossible to imagine sustainable technology development without considering inclusiveness and great accessibility to digital resources for people with physical or mental disabilities. After 2020, the world started becoming even more digital, and the ability to have equal access to online education, healthcare, employment, eCommerce, and interactive content is crucial. Moreover, inclusive digital solutions make social networking and friendships possible.

Whether online or offline, we believe the world could be a better place if all people of all abilities could perceive, navigate, and contribute to information equally. So, let’s dive deeper into digital inclusion and consider excellent practices and examples!

Digital inclusiveness in act 

Digital accessibility implies the ability of all digital products (including websites, applications, software, etc.) to be accessible to everyone. It is all about making sure all users can perceive, understand, and interact with the same information, no matter whether the user has abilities or disabilities. 

Inclusive design always takes into consideration all kinds of abilities and disabilities. And anyone can have difficulty using a service or have trouble accessing it at different times. We can easily associate access problems with permanent disabilities. But we may have been temporarily disabled or disabled in a situation, whether it’s a noisy environment, bright or dim lighting, or physical limitations like a broken arm. Almost everyone is likely to experience some form of disability – temporary or permanent – at some point. 

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) established the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) in 1995, which were already updated several times and are still under development. The third version of WCAG will be released in the not-too-distant future. 

 

Perceivable  

Information and user interface components must be presented so that all users can recognize and understand them. To make it easier for users to see and hear content, provide text alternatives for non-text content and captions and other alternatives for multimedia. Always create content to be presented in different ways without losing meaning. 

Operable 

Users must be able to interact with the components of the page, such as navigation features and the user interface. This includes making all functionality available from a keyboard, voice control, and assistive technologies, giving users enough time to read and use content, and helping users navigate and find content. 

Understandable 

Users must be able to understand the content and how to use the user interface. For example, it means that a user can clearly understand the purpose of the information and intuitively navigate through the interfaces. It is also essential to help users avoid and correct mistakes. 

Robust 

Maximize the compatibility with current and future user tools. Digital solutions need to work with‌ ‌various‌ ‌technologies,‌ including‌ ‌assistive‌ technologies.  

 

Following these four principles, users with any kind of disabilities won’t experience any issues accessing digital content. 

 

Useful tips

Offer alternatives 

– Use the alt attribute for non-text content, such as images, charts, and logos. Make sure that, for instance, images have alternative texts that describe the purpose of the images. It is helpful for users with visual impairments and when users cannot load the content.  

 – Transcribe and add captions to your videos. Adding transcripts helps users who can’t see or can’t hear the video, boosting SEO. Search engines can’t watch videos, but adding transcripts allows search engines to crawl the full text of your audio or video content so that it can be indexed appropriately. 

Caption videos so that they can be seen without sound and without losing their content. It is necessary for 360 million people worldwide who experience hearing loss. But did you know that 85% watch Facebook videos with the sound off? The reasons why users watch videos without sound include they are in a quiet space, they don’t have headphones, they are waiting in line, or they are multitasking. 

 

Don’t rely on color alone  

Relying on color alone to communicate information causes barriers for many users. Colorblind and low vision users may not be able to perceive the color differences, and screen readers do not announce colors. When using colors to differentiate between things, for instance, different parts of a chart or a link and its surrounding text, make sure color isn’t the only differential factor. Our tip is to try out your design or interface in greyscale, check if you still can understand the content and its status. 

 

Use strong contrast 

Content with good contrasts is easier to read by everyone, including those who do not have specific visual conditions. Make sure selected colors for fonts and graphic elements have a lot of contrast against their background. This includes text on images, icons, and buttons. Also, colors used to convey information on diagrams, maps, and other types of images must be distinguishable. This is especially necessary for the elderly and users with visual impairments, for instance, color blindness or low vision. But it also helps every user if they find themselves looking at a screen in bad lighting conditions, such as sunlight and glare. 

 To check your contrast, you can use an automatic color checker like Color Contrast Analyser or WAVE

Digital accessibility is not only about websites or applications, but it also applies everywhere. For instance, the streaming platform Netflix and the game Last of us have various options allowing users to control how they watch and interact with the content. Audio descriptions, brightness and font size controls, shortcuts, voice commands, and many more, everything that creates unhindered access to the content.  

How can businesses benefit from digital inclusiveness? 

Inclusive interfaces are comfortable and intuitive even for everyone, no matter what abilities or disabilities or origin we might have, since we all can find ourselves in a situation where we need accessible solutions. Having a positive user experience will definitely pay off.

So, how does a business benefit from considering digital inclusiveness?

Reaching broader audience
Inclusively designed products and services that have edge users in mind reach up to four times the size of the intended audience.

One-fifth of the EU population has some form of disability. The most current and accurate estimate points at over 100 million persons with disabilities living in the European Union. This makes it the largest minority group! According to Click-Away Pound Survey from 2019, 86% of visitors with disabilities online would spend more money if there were fewer accessibility barriers on the websites they visit. 

As we get older, we get poorer vision, hearing, fine motor skills, and short-term memory, benefiting from accessible solutions. The senior population in Europe (people 55+ y.o.) currently represents 127.4 million people. Meanwhile, 13% of the US population is 65+ years old. Senior citizens, holding a significant share of the wealth in Europe, require accessible websites and represent a key audience for some industries. 

Powerful brand image as a contributor to the sustainable future

Research suggests that if a retailer is not authentically committed to prioritizing inclusion and diversity, consumers are likely to take their money to a competitor who is inclusive.  

According to Forrester, About 70% of millennials would consider value-driven companies and have the highest expectations for brands to take a stand on values compared to other generations. Meanwhile, older generations are also becoming sensitive to company values during a purchase. Contributing to a sustainable future is a constantly arising challenge that companies need to overcome. Still, it helps not only to stay afloat but win the hearts of potential customers.  

Required by law

As of September 23, 2020, websites, mobile applications, and documents for, among others, authorities, county councils, municipalities, schools, health, and care must comply with the Digital Accessibility Act.

But in June this year, 2022, a new law will be added called the European Accessibility Act (EAA), which is aimed at the private sector. EAA is currently designed to make as many essential products and services available as possible. And while the law may not be able to address all obstacles, more effort will be required from all organizations if they are to remain compatible. From e-readers to ATMs, these rules will cover a wide range of technologies, including computers (hardware, software), self-service machines (ATMs, ticket machines, check-in machines), banking services, e-books, e-commerce, and digital services for the personal transport sector (air, bus, train, boat). Those who do not follow can be denied lucrative partnerships with important organizations. It can limit international cooperation, ultimately damaging an organization’s reach. By June 28, 2025, most law-related products and services must meet the requirements.

Improving SEO & website performance

Last but not least, considering digital inclusiveness facilitates access to the content not only for users but search engine crawlers as well. Such important points as great content visibility, the contrast in user interfaces and graphic design, proper font size, defined image alts, and others will contribute to the higher rankings of the website.

Conclusion

The world is transforming as fast as never before, and the digital ecosystem penetrates our lives, uncovering easier access to healthcare, education, shopping, online jobs, and just interactive content. Making all these accessible for everyone will undoubtedly contribute to a higher quality of life and happiness index.

Want to learn more about digital accessibility and inclusiveness to foster business growth? Contact Malin Hammarberg, Experience, Inclusive Design, and Accessibility Specialist at Sigma Technology Digital Solutions. at malin.hammarberg@sigmatechnology.se