Inclusive Design or Accessible Design: What should you choose?

Great content is the result of a designer’s dedication to developing a positive mental attitude. You may appeal to the largest potential audience by using the principles of both inclusive design and accessible design.

Accessibility and inclusion have some similarities, yet they are inherently distinct. The purpose of inclusive design is to provide an enjoyable and accessible experience for users of all ages, skills, and backgrounds. In terms of accessibility, what matters most is whether or not the content is really beneficial for individuals with impairments.

Inclusive Design vs Accessible Design: Differences

The term “inclusive design” refers to an all-encompassing strategy used in the creative process. The objective is to make the content easy to utilize for every reader, on any platform. Designers that prioritize accessibility understand that their decisions will have an impact on users of all abilities.

When it comes to accessibility, the main emphasis is on how certain design choices might be inaccessible to people with impairments. Users with visual or auditory impairments, or those with other disabilities that influence their online experience, are the focus of an accessible design technique, the purpose of which is to eliminate or mitigate the effects of these impairments.

In other words, while the goal of accessible design is to ensure that a website is compliant with WCAG Level AA, the goal of inclusive design is to ensure that everyone involved in the design process feels welcome and respected. When creating new content, your company should use both approaches.

Inclusive and Accessible design: Why it’s essential to include both in your strategy?

In this sense, accessible design may be assumed as a subset of inclusive design. However, there are established standards and guidelines in the field of digital accessibility that must be taken into account at every stage of the design process, and the needs of persons with disabilities must always come first.

Similarly, it’s not enough to just meet the “checkpoints” of accessibility to ensure that all users have a positive experience; rather, inclusive design and accessible design must operate in tandem to account for the whole range of human differences.

Here are some instances of design strategies that may not take into account the experiences of certain users:

  • An inclusive strategy is used by the design team while making a mobile app. They take into account the commuting experience and make sure the program works without sound. However, they don’t employ semantic markup to indicate interactive components which might be problematic for screen reader users (software that outputs text as audio or braille).
  • Content creators include captions and transcripts for videos. However, if the media player has poor keyboard accessibility, it causes frustration for real-life users.
  • The design team took into account screen reader users while creating their software. However, for users with temporary visual impairments who do not use a screen reader, the software might not have features like customizable font sizes and styles.

Steps to Develop an Accessible and Inclusive Methodology

It’s important to keep in mind that various kinds of users will be accessing your information and that they may have varying requirements and skills. Implementing inclusive design procedures and double-checking the results against industry-standard accessibility requirements like WCAG will ensure that everyone has the best possible experience.

4 steps to develop an accessible and inclusive strategy

1. Take every user into account 

To begin, think about how different settings and individual tastes could impact the overall impression. Is your content still enjoyable if the sound is turned off? How well do they fare with keyboard-only navigation? Is it possible to read it in bright light?

Identify situations where certain people could be left out, and then design your content to stop that from happening. Stop trying to create the “perfect user.” As that user individual may represent just a tiny fraction of your total audience.

2. Prioritize Accessibility principles

Ensure that everyone on your staff is familiar with accessibility guidelines. Content should be accessible in the sense that it can be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) (abbreviated as the POUR principles). All-inclusive strategies may be aided by keeping in mind these key notions.

If your content isn’t robust, meaning it doesn’t work with every user agent (including assistive technology), then that’s clearly an area where that requires improvement. However, including support for more user agents may become challenging at the end of development. You may prevent problems from affecting consumers by prioritizing the POUR principles early on.

3. Refer to WCAG for guidance

The Web Content Accessibility Rules (WCAG) are the most often acknowledged set of accessibility standards for a reason: the guidelines provide excellent information for designers, developers, and every member of your team.

Before creating your product, you should review the WCAG principles and guidelines. Remember that your eventual aim is to build content for real-world consumers, not to achieve a set degree of WCAG compliance.

4. Periodic evaluation of content

Make sure there aren’t any barriers to accessibility by monitoring it regularly. If you want to make sure your website or product is accessible to everyone, you should set up a regular audit plan with an accessibility partner and not depend exclusively on automated testing. The findings will be more reliable if they are analyzed by experts (and manually tested by people with impairments).

At AEL Data, our team of experts will work with you to identify any issues on your website that may be preventing people with disabilities from accessing it. We will then provide recommendations for how to fix these issues and make your website more accessible.

Feel free to contact AEL Data if you would need assistance with your accessibility issues or a review of the accessibility of your website.

Picture of Aditya Bikkani

Aditya Bikkani

Aditya is the COO of AELData, a growing technology company in the Digital Publishing and Education sectors. He is also an entrepreneur and founder of an accessibility tool called LERA. A W3C COGA (Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Accessibility) Community Member Aditya contributes to researching methodologies to improve web accessibility and usability for people with cognitive and learning disabilities.

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