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Not all services are created equal - designing for access needs

Inclusive design is based on the idea of researching for, and designing, services that benefit a wide range of users, including those with needs that are less common. For example, a user’s functional ability can vary hugely from person to person. In the UK, one in five people have one or more access needs related to their hearing, visual, motor or cognitive skills. If these aren’t recognised or catered, these users will feel frustrated and may give up on interacting with or using your service.

Designing for accessibility will also help people feeling excluded from your brand and service. Globally, around 15% of the population are considered to be disabled. This is a huge part of the population to risk excluding. Help them achieve what they need in a similar timeframe and with the same effort as someone who does not have a disability or access need. In doing so, you’ll empower users, enable independence and be able to provide a more positive overall experience.

The concept of accessibility needn’t just apply to those with a physical disability. Users experience different needs in different circumstances. For example, factors such as lack of access to technology, ill health, fatigue or even working in a noisy space can create barriers for users that make using a product or service difficult.

Here are a handful of ways you can begin to increase your service inclusivity:

Design for adaptability

To allow accessibility within your service, you must be sure that the information or structure of your service is as modifiable as possible. For example, if you’re running an online service, be aware that there is a range of tools that may be used to make your service accessible. These sometimes require information to be formatted or structured in a particular way. Here’s a great link that can help you get started.

Make sure your service is operable

Your service must be operable for a range of abilities. For example, for a web-based service, if someone needed to use only a keyboard for their computer, they should be able to do achieve just as much as someone with a mouse. This can be difficult and may not always be possible. It is however a great way to reimagine your service and may lead your team to new ways of thinking about your service.

Be clear and precise in your language

Those with dyslexia, or who are on the autistic spectrum, for example, may find complicated text difficult to comprehend. Make sure your text is clearly written and help readers who may struggle with complex writing. The Hemingway Editor, inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s powerful short prose, is a great way to ensure you aren’t overcomplicating sentences.

If you have any other tips you’d like to share or think we have missed something, don’t hesitate to share this post and add your thoughts.

Martha Schlee