Are You Reluctant to Venture into Accessibility Engineering?
The World Health Organization's World Report on Disability, although dated, is one that everyone in product engineering should review. As reported back in 2011, about 15 percent of the world's population lived with some form of disability, of whom 2 to 4 percent had a severe form of disability. While unfortunate that this number has not drastically come down, it is welcoming to know that this number has not increased. This is a significant segment of the population that cannot be left behind by non-inclusive product engineering.
Organizations are beginning to give a lot of attention and importance to accessibility engineering as part of their usability efforts; however, this awareness has still not effectively translated into implementation strategies that have taken shape and reached the market. For organizations, both large and small, that spin products into today’s agile market in no time, why is there a reluctance to venture into full-fledged accessibility engineering?
From a compliances standpoint, global consortiums have shaped accessibility as a non-overwhelming attribute to adopt. Rather than defining a one-size-fits-all, there are various compliance standards, each having different compliance levels, making accessibility an adoptable and phased engineering effort. For example, WCAG 2.0 level AA is one that most web and mobile applications strive to achieve given how realistic it is from implementation and end user acceptance standpoints. Compliance pressures shouldn’t hold you back from implementation.
Despite all of the industry standardization, some of the core reasons that product, engineering, and design teams are reluctant include:
Will changes impact experiences for my current user base? There could be some changes at a design level that could impact the current user base, but the good news is that changes do not need not be done immediately or all at once. You could start with core elements, such as making the full application accessible via keyboard and providing alt text for images. These do not impact current users but can significantly improve application access for the disabled. As for design, color schemas, and other elements that impact the overall user base, a more gradual and thought out implementation approach could be adopted.
I have a fear of the unknown. Not every organization has accessibility subject matter experts for both dev and test. The fear of not knowing what the plunge entails may put this on the back burner. Accessibility engineering is a piece that can be handled very effectively in a short period of time once core knowledge and engineering investments are made. The time has come to convert fears into motivating pillars to take the leap forward.
Do I have to implement/re-engineer all issues found? As discussed above, both compliances and engineering practices in accessibility accommodate a phased approach.
Once an organization decides to venture into accessibility, it is something that can easily be accomplished using dedicated investments and a phased manner. It's time to shed your reluctance and make your solution inclusive for all.