Around 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability living in an environment with multiple barriers. One of these obstacles is the lack of assistive technology that could improve the digital user experience. Technologies and applications to promote and enhance the lives of people with disabilities are important. Already, lack of access to the internet is impeding the benefits of digitalization. To prevent exclusion, technology and apps that improve access online will promote better lives, reduce significant challenges, and enhance the interactions of those with handicaps. From finding information to entertainment, an easy-to-use internet will increase online participation among segments of the population with disabilities.
The Design Phase is Crucial
Currently, there are already many apps and technologies that are designed to make the internet easier to navigate for those with a handicap. For example, several AAC apps are targeted at groups of people who have difficulties in communicating, have speech impairments, or are nonverbal. They help in communication and comprehension so that those with debilities can express themselves and be understood. However, some apps and tech are flawed and not adapted to meet the needs of those with incapacities.
To illustrate, many user experience (UX) developers often overlook the accessibility of their apps for those with some form of disability. People with infirmities also use mobile phones, but if the apps are not easy to access, the user experience is not optimal. In addition, overlooking the segment of the population that have frailties will also lead to lost revenue. Thus, in an ideal world, involving people with disabilities in the design phase of apps and technologies makes sense. Unfortunately, this is not always possible, but designers can incorporate the feedback of users with disabilities while the app is in the development stage by working closely with national disability organizations. In addition, it is also possible to conduct usability testing targeting participants with disabilities to see how an app is accessible or assistive.
Internet accessibility is not only about its functionality. It’s also important to offer content that can be retrieved by everyone. That means content must be ‘seen and heard by all users irrespective of abilities. Furthermore, content must be simple and understandable while text and media should be easy to digest. If an interaction is needed, the developers and designers should offer the right assistive tools to make it easy to do so.
In the long term, available content must also be created with resilience and robustness in mind. As technology is continuously evolving, websites must work with current and future tools. It also implies that both mainstream and assistive technologies must be compatible with existing ones. The point is breaking down accessibility barriers is not an easy task, but it is possible to get there.
Reducing the barriers for people with special needs is not easy. But, by improving the design of apps and technologies to the point of involving those with disabilities enhance the user interface/experience and improving online content to make it available to everyone with different levels of ability, it is possible to offer something on the web that caters to different experiences and interactions.