The Basics: Incorporating Accessibility Early and Throughout
When accessibility is considered early and throughout design, it can be seamlessly and elegantly integrated with overall product design. Incorporating accessibility early decreases the time and money to design accessible products and increases the positive impact that accessibility can have on design overall.
If accessibility is only addressed late in product design, it can be very costly to make required design changes. Furthermore, accessibility “tacked on” at the end is usually much less effective for people with disabilities and less beneficial for others. As an example, consider a building that is architecturally planned for accessibility from the beginning and has a wheelchair-accessible entrance that fits with the building design aesthetically and practically. Compare that to a building with a ramp added on after the building was already designed and the ramp looks awkward and is less useful to all. Incorporating accessibility from the beginning of a design project is significantly easier, more effective, and less expensive than waiting until later in the project.
While this book focuses on accessibility within the design process, there are accessibility considerations that you can address even before design. For example:
- Research legal and other requirements for accessibility of your products.
- Research accessibility standards and guidelines for your type of product.
- Develop internal policies and guidelines for accessibility.
- Budget and schedule to include people with disabilities as collaborators in your project.
- Develop accessibility knowledge and skills through training and hiring, as appropriate.
It is almost always better to integrate accessibility considerations throughout your existing processes, rather than addressing accessibility separately. While you may need some additional steps for accessibility, most of it fits nicely within what you're already doing. For example, instead of evaluating accessibility separately, integrate accessibility checks where they fit best within your current testing and quality assurance (QA) processes. That's just one example; integrating accessibility applies all the way through a project.
When possible, include an accessibility specialist(s) on your design team, either staff or consultant. Whether or not you have an accessibility specialist, it's helpful for all members of the design team to have some understanding of accessibility issues.
The next chapter tells you how to understand accessibility issues by involving people with disabilities in your project.
Some of the information in this chapter was previously published in:
- Henry, S.L. "Understanding Web Accessibility", Web Accessibility: Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance. Berkeley, CA: friends of ED/Apress, 2006.