Accessible product design tips

Understanding inclusive and accessible product design is not hard, in fact, it can inspire new ways of thinking creatively about a task.

Design for anyone: better for everyone.

There are many solutions, technologies and tools that we can recommend to businesses to help resolve accessibility issues. Despite what lots of people think, braille is not always the most effective solution. Braille can only provide limited information on packaging and requires costly manufacturing processes. But most importantly, less than 10 per cent of blind and partially sighted people know how to read braille.

Get in touch with us today and we can support your business find the right solution for you. Contact us on 01733 375 370 or fill out our contact form. To help you get started, here are some tips on achieving accessible product design:

  • Know your customers' needs

Assumptions can be dangerous and having a true understanding of how a customer may need to interact with your product or service is vital.

For example, many people would assume that if you were designing an app for blind people, that you wouldn’t need to consider the on-screen design – but 93 per cent of blind or partially sighted people have some residual vision – so, on-screen design (such as colour contrast and font size) is crucial, as it is for everyone else.

  • Consider as many needs as possible

Customers experience both permanent, temporary and situational barriers that stop them from accessing your goods or services. So, consider as many needs as you can.

Ask yourself things like: “How would I access this if I had a broken arm or hearing loss, or could I use this product if I was partially sighted?”.

  • Design without limitations

All too often, goods and services are designed for the masses first, excluding those with other abilities. Retro-fitting inclusivity or accessibility is both expensive and, in many cases, it doesn’t work.

Cater for the extremes of use first to fulfil the overall customer experience.

  • Inclusivity at every stage of the customer journey

What’s the point of spending time and effort to create a fully accessible product and then selling it on an inaccessible website? Consider the entire customer journey and remove any barriers there may be.

Website accessibility design tips

We’ve also brought together a few top tips on how to create accessible and usable websites:

  • Keep interactive elements interactive

All interactive elements need to be in the tab order so that keyboard-only and screen reader users can reach and select them.

  • Heading structure is important

The structure of a page can be seen visually as soon as you open the page – but for a screen reader user, they need to be able to build a mental picture of the page. This means the page must translate when spoken. So a logical heading structure is vital.

  • Don’t just show it, say it

Speech users need clear feedback on what they are doing, what they’re going to do and what has happened. Unless they're given clear spoken guidance, the page is impossible to navigate. For example, when you add a product to a basket – visually it might be clear that something has happened, but the same needs to be clear in speech.

  • Colour contrast is key

The WGAG guidelines work on a ratio that has been quantified for people in their 80s with 50 per cent residual vision (this is far above that of blind or partially sighted people). It also means the WCAG minimum colour contrast ratio of 4.5:1 between standard size text and its background is really the least it should be.

Remember, text is not the only thing that needs to be easy to see. All elements such as check boxes or edit fields need to stand out and be easy to find on the page. The outline of these elements need to pass a minimum colour contrast ratio of 3:1 with the background of the page. 

  • Don’t forget the alt text

Images and icons should come with their own short accurate spoken description, so blind and screen readers know what is on display. If an image is decorative and doesn’t provide any additional information, then the alt text can be null (which means that a screen reader will ignore the image and not provide any feedback).

  • All content is important

When media content is used, you should consider the needs of users with disabilities. For instance, a video should have subtitles and audio description. It’s also useful to provide a transcript of video content for people who find viewing videos difficult.

If there are audio files, provide a transcript with a description of any non-verbal content (as would be done for subtitles).

  • There’s always more to learn

It’s important to note that this is not an exhaustive list of all issues that might occur. We've just identified some common issues around accessibility and usability. It is not a replacement for a proper test.