Mythbusting Accessibility

It’s that time again.

Every year, around Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), we get asked to think about how we can make the world more accessible. GAAD is over ten years old now, so that’s been a lot of time to think and get everyone talking and learning about digital access and inclusion.

In that decade, we’ve seen failures and wins. And inclusion is finally on the agenda if you are looking to make changes. And if you’re not, perhaps time to ask: when?

In either case, let me bust some of the myths and misconceptions we hear when people start out on this journey of accessibility.

  1. Inclusive design is useability testing on a website. 

Digital access and inclusion doesn’t sit on it’s own – it’s integrated into everything you do.

Inclusive design is a methodology that allows us to intentionally include and design with people who are excluded because of ability, race, sex, gender, age, and all other forms of human difference. It considers your culture, processes, tools to be inclusive (like useability) and your teams.

  1. Training is the answer 

How often have you been to a course, only to return to work full of good intentions that amount to nothing? It’s because systems and processes and culture at work can form a barrier for change. So what can you do? Link inclusion to what your organisation rewards. Think of a product or system in your organisation that needs to be worked on. Now integrate your training and process design to fix it with an inclusion lens. People with disabilities are not only your customers, they can also be the best point for innovation. Sounds difficult? Well, Ferrari to Mars Group internationally, and banks and broadcasters have all shown that it isn’t in these highlighted case studies.

  1. Inclusion is expensive. 

We’re often told it’s too expensive to design for disability and diversity. This thinking is part of our collective bias. The people who your designs work for are actually very similar, but people who your designs don’t work for are often quite different from each other. We find, however, that with just a 10th of the cost when doing comparative market research, we get more and better information from people with lived experience. What if we simply started with a re-thought of our marketing and UX budgets?

  1. It’s all about awareness. 

Yes and no. While organisations are moving to inclusive advertising and product design, if you don’t match awareness with simple fixes, like making sure your website is accessible, people won’t thank you. It’s like building an amazing house, and not including a door to get in.

  1. Biases are bad. 

We all have biases. It’s how we make sense of all the information that comes into our brains. If we aren’t aware of how we make our decisions and our own biases, then we are unintentionally excluding others. Fix this by asking people what isn’t working for them and what they want. While employee groups are great, they aren’t your customers or potential customers – you need to hear from them.

  1. It’s too big. 

When we think about making our workplaces accessible, the task can be quite daunting. Think about starting with something small that has real impact. It’s a journey not an end point, but you need to start.

And as you read this, and you still aren’t sure, then perhaps answer these questions: whose voices are you listening to now? And what potential benefits are you missing out on if you aren’t being inclusive?

More information and resources from Global Accessibility Awareness Day

With not For Podcast: Ep 5: The Dignity Project with Angel Dixon and Kelsey Chapman

Stats and facts: Benefits of designing for everyone

Education and resources from the best in the business: Inspiration series

Real people, real stories: Match mismatch