Accessibility: How to Maximize Inclusivity and Engagement

This article was written by our colleagues Julia Fitzgerald and Yamile Bonifacio, Healthcare Designers.

Social media is meant to be a space where people can participate in community conversation, engage with friends, create content, and interact with virtually anything accessible to user platforms. One might think that this advanced technology caters to everyone, but we often overlook a large demographic when it comes to the user experience.

In a time when digital technology is constantly evolving, it is pertinent that these developments are accessible for all. Web accessibility means that websites, tools and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the web. Nearly 30 years ago, the American Disability Act was established to implement actions that support individuals with disabilities in the workspace. The disability act has grown in scope with the advancement of technology, and we’ve seen this influence digital engagements as well. But there is still room for improvement. As designers and communicators, we need to ensure we too, are incorporating these advancements.

Accessibility in the digital space

Accessibility features create a more seamless user experience for all. Some of Apple’s newest iOS updates cater to those with disabilities, while also providing helpful tools for everyone. For example, the different “focus mode” options allow users to personalize their notifications during different time periods, such as during sleep or work, to eliminate distractions. This feature also lets their contacts know that their notifications are on silent mode. This feature can significantly improve lifestyles for those struggling with attention disorders, to facilitate focus-oriented time periods. Another advantage called “live text” is an interactive feature that prompts helpful tools such as copy and paste, lookup, and translate. This caters to many different learning disabilities and helps those with language barriers. Siri assistance has also improved speech recognition by providing punctuation without specification as well as insertion of emojis by description, two features that further support those living with cognitive disabilities such as ADD and ADHD.

Social media platforms have implemented accessibility features of their own, enhancing both engagement potential and user experience. A trend that has been implemented on many platforms is automated closed captioning. TikTok, reels, and Instagram stories have rapidly spotlighted this feature, which not only helps those that are deaf or hard of hearing, but also helps users catch information they may have missed otherwise. Siri automated voiceovers have shown success among user preferences, if people wish to provide audio but are mute or deaf, they can type a narrative that can be created into a voiceover. These examples can serve as proofpoints that have been implemented for the improved user experience, as technology continues to advance.

Design Accessibility tips:

In a world so digitally focused, it’s important that content production is accessible for, and caters to, all users. Below, we’ve provided a list of ADA-guided best practices to be mindful of when creating content.

-Maintain contrast in brand colors and in backgrounds with type. This allows for legibility of text. There are plenty of online resources that will distinguish if web colors are ADA compliant, by checking for color contrast and type size.

-Utilize legible typefaces. While we can experiment with different typography styles, we should prioritize fonts that are legible. The headings and body of your text should include one serif and one san-serif type, providing a better reading experience.

-Use at least 12-point font in body copy. 12-point font is the minimum size font that is ADA compliant.

-Headings should be at least two points larger than the corresponding body text.

-Always include a transcript, closed captions and audio descriptions. This provides viewers that are deaf or hard of hearing a way of engaging with the content.

-Utilize imagery space to represent age, race, gender, socioeconomic status and further visable differences. This speaks to a larger audience and allows different communities to feel accounted for.

Technology should be a value add to an individual’s life, through seamless and virtual touch. That goes for the lives of all, including the disabled and impaired. Creatives are meant to problem solve, and inclusivity is a conflict that we can help solve for the future of design. From our design team to yours, thanks for the read.

TELL US: What other design tips do you keep in mind when developing content for your audience?