Future Female and 50 attendees to the Accessibility event in October learned about why and how to design services for everyone.

Avaava, a Finnish 10-year-old Tekes funded startup is working on bringing empathy into design. They brought a power team of 4 ladies to discuss the importance of accessibility and to give insight into how it feels in real life to have an impairment through personal experiences and infusive demo sessions.

Sanoma Pro, who also hosted us during the event, gave us a real life example of a project of theirs revolving around accessibility and a practical framework that anyone can use to kickstart and manage their project.

What in accessibility and why are we talking about it?

“Design for all” is term used when talking about accessibility, also known as Inclusive Design, means building services and products to cater for as many of us humans as possible.

According to Avaava, by some estimates there are over 1 billion people in the world with impaired mobility or functionality. In Finland the number is 1 million, a whopping 20% of the population. These impairments can be temporary or permanent and they can be related to any of our 6 senses and beyond them.

It should be simple enough, we should design services for as many as possible, right? In business terms, why ignore 20% of your potential buyers? But as Terhi Tamminen explained, it is easy to overlook this portion of the population, and this is what happens at many companies, including one of her previous employers unfortunately. Especially in IT, where work is to be done regarding workforce diversity.

Now in the late 2010s, however, there is another reason coming up that is not so easily ignored; the law. Avaava let us know the basics of the recent EU regulations that will have an effect on almost every service (digital or not) that we build by 2025, enforced in stages, but eventually touching even the services we have already built.

How to get there?

Elina Lohikoski, who among her many talents has a PhD in Cognitive Accessibility, explained that she doesn’t believe in designing products for accessibility, rather for people. Her opinion was that every product will exclude someone to some extent, but it is our responsibility to be aware of the choices we make.

Real life example: Did you know that using Heading1 instead of Heading2 will have an effect on how a person using a Screenreader experiences your digital services? It effects the hierarchy of your layout making the page harder to navigate.

“Make small, informed choices based on facts, and not what looks pretty”

Azra Tayyebi, Accessibility Consultant and Software Developer followed up with her advice based on her own experiences. She also gave us a demo of using a Screenreader in real life and how the logics behind the tool work.

Azra’s advice regarding the sometimes problematic attitudes towards accessibility was to:

  • Be aware of your own attitudes and biases
  • Talk about it and raise awareness in your community
  • Make small changes

The organisation W3 has also published web accessibility guidelines that are free for all and accessible online. They cover a wide range of aspects to do with accessibility.

Very simplified, the basic success factors of accessibility are that a service is

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable
  • Robust

Avaava has also molded the W3 standards into simplified guidelines, and offer consulting and training for companies who need help in this. We at Future Female highly recommend Avaava’s services for Accessibility training.

We are living in exciting times, where it’s no longer only the “right thing to do” to provide services that cater for a larger amount of people, but it is a legal obligation.

Is your company or organisation ready for accessibility?