Take a User-Centric Approach to Digital Accessibility

Marina PortraitMarina Lucier
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American Foundation for the Blind’s Tanner Gers and Applause’s Inge De Bleecker provide tips on developing accessible digital experiences

Digital accessibility is more important than ever as everyday tasks are increasingly done in the digital world. Tanner Gers, Business Development Lead at the American Foundation for the Blind’s digital accessibility consulting practice, recently joined Applause’s Senior Director of User Experience, Inge De Bleecker, for a webinar, The Importance of Accessible Digital Experiences in Our New Normal. They discussed the importance of inclusive experiences in the digital age and how to implement accessible design into a development cycle.

De Bleecker and Gers discussed how to leverage the USERIndex — which stands for Usefulness, Satisfaction, Easy to Use and Reliability — as a way to get started on the path to great digital experiences that can be enjoyed by everyone. De Bleecker and fellow UX professional Rebecaa Okoroji created the USERIndex to help with user experience testing. You can read much more about the history of the USERIndex here.

By following the USERIndex approach, companies can improve their user experience, and as a result, expand products to a new customer base and foster a positive brand image.

“There's never been lower, juicier fruit to grab by being a user-first, digital-first company,” Gers explains in the webinar. “The real opportunity here is that, because technology is advancing so rapidly, it's providing people with disabilities the opportunity to engage with businesses online in a meaningful way like never before.”

Here’s a closer look at the USERIndex, and how De Bleecker and Gers described using these metrics as a way to improve digital accessibility for users with disabilities.

Usefulness - Companies looking to create inclusive experiences must consider how their products interact with assistive technology. “It can be frustrating when you have to use special technology that isn’t compatible with those platforms,” Gers said of using everyday products with assistive technology. When it comes to inclusive design principles, De Bleecker said teams should start incorporating those at the design phase. “And actually, [you should do that] once you start thinking about anything new, whether it's inclusive design or anything else, as just another part of your typical development cycle,” De Bleecker said.

Satisfaction - A great digital product will meet the needs of all consumers and create a satisfying experience. Gers suggests that UX designers and developers start looking at how their product behaves when paired with assistive technology early in the software development life cycle (SDLC). “When you start to incorporate using screen reader testing in the development cycle, or you're getting someone that you know that happens to have a disability to take a look at the product, I think that that is a great first step, and a great way to take off the training wheels,” Gers said.

“When you start to incorporate using screen reader testing in the development cycle ... I think that that is a great first step, and a great way to take off the training wheels and see how you're really riding that thing.”

Tanner Gers, Business Development Lead, American Foundation for the Blind

Ease of Use - Developing for accessibility means that products need to be enjoyable and intuitive, as well as functioning. De Bleecker says designers need to ask themselves, “How can we make the content easier to digest using simpler words, using simple sentence structure, making sure that terminology is consistent, presenting content in a logical order? Those are all aspects of an interface that will benefit everyone.”

Reliability - Support your products and accessibility features with a full testing suite to ensure that all of your users can rely on it. In addition to testing with users who have disabilities, De Bleecker says, “Resources are also available across the development cycle, anywhere from assessments to design reviews, to educational workshops to educate your teams and inclusive design studies. So at any point in the development cycle, there are certain activities related to accessibility testing.”

Applause works with leading technology companies to design intuitive, inclusive products. Applause provides flexible testing services with everything from accessibility assessments to inclusive design studies and training sessions. Applause creates custom, flexible testing teams that can include individuals who rely on assistive technology in their daily lives.

AFB Consulting has been helping organizations advance their accessibility and disability-inclusion goals for over 15 years. Working with companies across the retail, telecommunications, finance, education and technology industries, AFB Consulting offers a variety of services that address tactical, strategic and programmatic approaches to promote disability inclusion.

Watch the full webinar with Tanner Gers and Inge De Bleecker to get more details on how your team can deliver an excellent digital experience that is usable by all.

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