How can we gather accessibility insights from users while being cost effective?
Addressing the accessibility barriers for every impairment and disability can seem an overwhelming task. Many of our clients want to know how this is possible when they realise the diversity of ability among their users. Let’s go through how we address this!
A common approach to identifying the ideal users to include in user research, is to recruit participants who fall into each ‘disability group’ (for example, people who are blind, those with deafness or hard of hearing and those with mobility issues, to mention a few). This approach works, for projects with a larger budget and/or unique use cases. However, this is not the only way to identify participants for user research.
By reframing the question around access needs and not disability groups, the solutions to the problem have a further reach and create an all-round better digital experience for everyone. For instance, a typical access need for people who use sign language as their first language (e.g. those who are Deaf since birth), is clear and concise language. This is a clearer and more actionable need and so is more achievable. For instance, we could consider the following ways to ensure clarity of language:
Using plain language standards to have great, concise copy on your site that enhances the reading experience for everyone
Avoiding using idioms and figures of speech
Not making use of jargon or slang that would only be accessible to some groups of users unless it’s absolutely necessary to explain something or it is industry related
Writing out acronyms in full initially so that users are aware of their meaning
This concept – of thinking about access needs rather than disability groups – then lends itself to a much better level of inclusion. For example, the need we mentioned previously, i.e. ‘clear and concise language’ is shared by multiple groups. For example, those with dyslexia, those with lower reading ability or certain learning difficulties.
This means that by identifying and focusing in on needs, rather than disability groups, we no longer have to recruit a large sample of users for our research. We just need to identify the specific needs that are relevant to what we are testing, and then recruit a representative group of users who have those needs.
This then means, we can conduct multiple rounds of user research, with different participants, as we update the design/code and iterate as we go. This is a much more agile and cost effective approach to inclusive user research than trying to run large studies.
Ultimately, drawing the focus away from user groups and putting the emphasis on the access needs and accommodations will solve more problems for many more people.
Everyone benefits from accessible digital experiences and the accommodations and solutions to access needs. There is no need to feel overwhelmed trying to tackle every impairment or disability, but there are ways you can accommodate everyone and improve as a whole through building an inclusive experience for all.