Women working with computer for design and coding program

Article by Jane Hostler, User Experience Designer & Researcher at Assistive Tech company CareScribe

First coined as a term in the 1990s, UX stands for “user experience” and refers to everything that affects the way the user interacts with a digital product.

That could be a website, an app or a platform. Nowadays you commonly hear the term alongside human-centered design, which is about putting the person at the heart of any interactive system.

A focus on UX is important for any company, but UX in the assistive technology sector provides the unique challenge of addressing a wide range of different user accessibility needs.

However, I’d argue that accessibility UX should be a priority for all tech companies. Especially as studies show that over 11 million disabled people live in the UK and at least 10% of the global population has a disability – so we’re talking about 650 million people who should be able to access your products or services online.

It doesn’t need to cost more

Too many companies view accessibility UX as an extra cost, and therefore a barrier. But if you start from an accessibility viewpoint, this simply isn’t the case.

The best way to work is to adopt an inclusive design mentality from the get go. It’s important not to see UX accessibility guidelines as constraints – instead see a framework of requirements that help us all create a better product for every users.

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Designing for our future selves

Tech should be developed with our future selves in mind – just because we might not have specific access needs or disabilities in the traditional sense, it doesn’t mean we won’t face access needs in the future. For example a broken arm, or a loud room that makes hearing difficult are all constraints that need to be accounted for. There’s rarely a perfect set up with perfect conditions.

We need to start designing for the needs of people with permanent, temporary, situational, or changing disabilities, and those needs could apply to any one of us.

The future is accessibility teams

In the future we’ll see accessibility teams – groups of dedicated to improving accessibility, including accessibility UX. This will become the norm in every company, not just those forward-thinking ones. Processes will need to be put in place and the experience will be improved for everyone.

Until then, we need to put accessibility UX on the agenda. Accessibility is a human right and it’s up to us to help level the playing field. After all, if a person with specific access needs can use a product, then everyone can.