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Reshape Digital #12: Web Accessibility to Innovation
Why should companies design for accessibility? Today, we discuss some of the innovations that have resulted from designing a more inclusive web, and how your organization can do the same.

Why should companies design for accessibility? Today, we discuss some of the innovations that have resulted from designing a more inclusive web, and how your organization can do the same.

In this special episode of Reshape Digital, hosts Stephen Boucher and Chris Liko recognize National Accessibility Week by discussing how companies can innovate through accessible web design. 

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Benefits of Designing for Accessibility

There is a myriad of benefits to optimizing accessibility on your website. From a customer experience perspective, it is important that the 6 million Canadians and 1.5 billion people worldwide with disabilities can engage with your brand and enjoy a barrier-free digital experience. 

Between alienating customers and advocacy groups, having an inaccessible website can weaken your brand reputation significantly, as well as your search engine optimization. There are also legal and regulatory consequences of not complying with existing standards. These are arguments we hear frequently regarding compliance, but what are the benefits of going beyond compliance?

Beyond Compliance and WCAG 2.1

A lot of companies go to great lengths to ensure their websites meet all accessibility guidelines, like WCAG 2.1. But what happens when you design for accessibility? 

Leading the charge and setting new standards for accessibility is always important from a brand reputation perspective, but there's so much more to it than that. As it turns out, designing for accessibility can lead to unexpected innovations. 

Innovative features originally intended as accessibility tools

Voice-to-text and dictation

Voice-to-text software was originally intended to help blind users write messages without the use of a keyboard. Today, dictation software is commonly used as a general productivity tool. When users are driving and their eyes are occupied on the road, they can still send and receive messages from others using dictation software.

Even more commonly, the technology has been used extensively for voice search applications, such as Google Home and Amazon's Alexa. 

Predictive text and keyboard shortcuts

While more efficient and time-saving for everyone (especially compared to multi-tap character selection on mobile phones), predictive text and keyboard shortcuts were originally intended to assist those with arthritis or tremors, as well as those with learning disabilities. 

Captions

While captions were originally designed for those who are hearing impaired, they've received far more widespread use in recent years. Autoplay of videos is very common on the web nowadays, but as everyone is extremely aware, they have a tendency to autoplay at the absolute worst times. This creates a poor user experience. This has been mitigated by companies like Facebook defaulting to captions on videos in their feeds. This mainstream adoption has also led to a general improvement in captioning technology.

For more examples like these, check out the full episode of Reshape Digital! 

Different icons relating to web accessibility

Final thoughts on accessible design

The first step will always be compliance, and it's important to be proactive. At OPIN, we recommend enterprise tools with automated accessibility checks like Siteimprove to make sure every corner of your site is meeting all current standards. 

Once those standards have been met, the sky's the limit. It's important to think about as many different perspectives and levels of ability when designing for human beings. Doing so might just reveal something you would never have discovered otherwise!

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