The pitch. The design. Flawless. At least for some users. If accessibility wasn't a core consideration in that new website or app, millions of people probably won't be able to use it. For creative agencies who provide digital solutions to their customers, accessibility is becoming a key differentiator, and there are at least three main reasons your agency should be a leader in that area:
- Your customers will be demanding it.
- Your products will be better for it.
- Your understanding of how people use your products will expand.
Your customers will be demanding it
Accessibility isn't a fad that is going away. In fact, its need is growing as more people have known disabilities, use of the web continues to grow, and web accessibility lawsuits continue to make headlines.
Whether your customers had an Aha! moment as a result of an event like the COVID-19 crisis, they've discovered the benefits of accessibility, or they've simply realized that accessibility isn't optional and they may face legal consequences for failing to meet the needs of their customers with disabilities, more and more customers will be demanding it.
You might think of it as future-proofing or you might prefer to think of it as actively shaping your company's future. Either way, developing expertise in accessibility and building it into your products allows you to meet the needs of those customers when they start demanding it.
Accessibility provides a competitive advantage to the digital products of your customers, just as being able to offer it may provide a competitive advantage to you.
Suggested reading: Is There a Legal Requirement to Implement WCAG?
Your products will be better for it
One very common objection to implementing accessibility best practices is that the quality or beauty of the product will be sacrificed. This line of thinking can be perpetuated by designers or developers being forced to try to shove accessibility into a fully-baked (and not accessible) product. When this happens, the design or functionality of a website or app changes — and those changes sometimes mean that the end result isn't what was initially pictured, which can feel like something being lost or sacrificed.
More thoughtful or deliberate approaches to accessibility can actually be quite beautiful and most certainly will create a product that is usable by more people. For example, using colors that have enough contrast can help create bold designs that can be read more easily. Thoughtful use of images can also enhance an experience. It's often believed that images and accessibility don't mix well, but did you know that some people actually understand content better when they have something visual to accompany the text? Understanding accessibility can help you find the right mix and always have a plan for an engaging (and accessible) path forward.
This will always be more difficult after the fact. Instead, consider these eight tips for designing websites with people with disabilities in mind from the very beginning. For example, if you use personas or do user testing, include people with disabilities; limit thinking about the ideal user; design for desktop and mobile; and choose accessible color palettes.
Suggested reading: Creative Site Design That's Beautiful and Accessible
Your understanding of how people use your products will expand
This idea is related to the previous, but it's actually a separate consideration. Yes, your products will be better when they're accessible, but understanding and prioritizing accessibility will also influence how you come to determine that they're better.
Digital tools, like all tools, are only as good as they are usable. And of course, one of the main tasks creative agencies are charged with is making the user experience as good as it can be. But how can you measure user experience without a thorough understanding of the many different ways your users will interact with, or experience, your website or app?
As you grow in your awareness and knowledge of accessibility, you grow in your awareness and knowledge of how your own digital products are being and will be used.
In turn, your products will be better for it, and as your understanding of how people use your products expands, your products will become even better still.
Suggested reading: Assistive Technology 101: What You Need to Know