Over 53 million people in the United States live with a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That’s 1 in 5 people. And yet, accessibility for those with disabilities is rarely considered when it comes to developing new products, apps, or businesses online or in the tech world. Or, as Mary Fernandez put it at the 2017 Propelify Innovation Festival:
“You wouldn’t give someone a blank piece of paper and say only certain people can see it,” Mary said. “When you create with only one form of communication, you’re also excluding people.”
Mary, who is 100% blind and an accessibility consultant, has three great ways tech companies can increase their accessibility – from start to finish.
Accessibility means anyone and everyone can navigate, operate, and understand the environment they are in.
“When we apply that to to the web, that means people with disabilities can perceive the content and navigate the content,” Mary said. “Accessibility isn’t something that’s taught in school. And most people in web design or development don’t really know about it. But it’s easy to get educated once you know.”
To get educated on accessibility, and learn how to incorporate access for everyone into your business model, there are several resources you can research and use:
To make tech apps more accessible from the beginning, it’s imperative to change current paradigms about who will use a future program, product, or digest future content.
“It’s time for us to change how we think about the user experience,” Mary said. “Instead of thinking about creating something for a person just like you, we need to remember that the user actually will not always be a person just like you!”
Beginning with accessibility at the development stage is always the most cost-effective and efficient route, rather than trying to accomplish a retrograde accessibility fix after that fact.
Mary offered several ways companies can increase access for the disabled:
And always remember Mary’s golden rule:
“Treat us like people. Give people with disabilities a chance. Focus on what we can do, not what we can’t do.”
Watch highlights from Mary's talk at the 2017 Propelify Innovation Festival:
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