Is Accessibility On Your Radar?

Can you imagine a world where you cannot order food online, access your study material online, go into a building which does not have wheelchair access or even watch a movie for lack of subtitles? Unfortunately, there are millions of people in the world who face these challenges on a daily basis. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified over 1 billion disabled people, 20% of whom live with great functional difficulties in their day-to-day lives.

Accessibility is the practice of making information, environments, and services meaningful, inclusive, and usable for everyone, including persons with disabilities (PwDs). Lack of accessibility hinders a person’s effective and equitable participation in society.

Who Benefits from Accessible Design?

It can be anyone whose access to information, activities, and/or environments is impeded by a temporary, recurring, or permanent condition, including cognitive, physical mobility, auditory, verbal, or ocular disabilities; age, language, culture, education; economic position and technological aptitude. Barriers to accessibility can be of various kinds too. Let’s take a closer look.

The Roadblocks

  • Architectural barriers include buildings or outdoor spaces that hinder access to PwDs. It can be the design of the stairs, doorways that are too narrow, or desks that are too high for wheelchair access.
  • Organizational barriers are policies that unfairly discriminate against persons with disabilities. An insensitive instance might be when a business lacks any particular policy in recruiting PwDs.
  • Attitudinal barriers include behaviors and perceptions discriminating against PwDs . A common example is the assumption that a person with a disability is inferior.
  • Information or communication barriers occur when sensory disabilities, such as seeing, hearing, or learning disabilities, are neglected. Some examples are unformatted electronic documents unreadable by a screen reader, or minuscule print.
  • Technology barriers happen when a device or platform is accessible neither on its own, nor with an assistive device. Websites not meeting accessibility standards and Learning Management Systems (LMSs) inaccessible by screen-readers are examples.

Universal Design: Solving Challenges

These challenges are being countered by the inclusive concept of Universal Design which ensures both direct (unassisted) and indirect access (with assistive technology like screen-readers) to products and services. Though it removes all barriers for PwDs, accessibility technology benefits all users.

The term ‘Universal Design’ was coined by architect Ronald Mace to describe the designing of products and environments to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible, regardless of age, ability, or situation. Today, socially conscious enterprises, governments and individual entities are moving towards accessible environments in various areas like legislation, employment, architecture, transportation and education. From providing level access from curbs and smart cards for fare collection, to the removal of turnstiles; all of it is enhancing user experience for all of us.

The Digital Access

Solutions for access into the digital world are also on the line. With artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning facilitating PDF remediation and tagging and generating alternative text for images, digital document accessibility is well on its way. Captions for videos are ensuring access for people with low-vision or blindness, and audio transcripts are addressing hearing challenges. Studies have also shown captioned video is increasing the amount of time spent watching the video and improving comprehension for all users, regardless of disabilities.

As learning moved online with the COVID-19 pandemic, designing accessible Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) content became a key learning requirement. Accessible STEM content, particularly STEM image accessibility, will provide equal access to all and improve overall functionality and user experience.

Making an ethical commitment towards equitable and responsible design is important in today’s social structure. Identifying and responding to the ways in which product design, interfaces and environments can impede a user’s ability to access, is key. Do the right thing and commit to accessibility today. Contact us at Continual Engine for your PDF and document remediation, and STEM image accessibility needs.

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Debangku Sarma

Digital Marketing Associate
Continual Engine

Vijayshree Vethantham

Senior Vice-President, Growth & Strategy
Continual Engine US LLC

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