Inclusive Design

When Should You Think About Accessibility?

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Editor’s Note: Tom Babinzski, an Accessibility Advisor with IBM Accessibility Research, is starting a new blog series where he will share tips and tricks for accessible design and development. If you have topics you’d like Tom to address, please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

I spend a majority of my time traveling to different IBM offices around the world to help educate designers, developers and offering managers on best practices in accessibility.

I have been involved in accessibility for many years – both personally and professionally. My life depends on accessible technology solutions and wanted to use this platform to share some my insights on this important space.Green road sign with white letters that says "The Beginning"

Often in my practice, I find that when a web or mobile app is completed, the product team checks for accessibility. It is great that such an important consideration is not missed, but there is a way to spend less time on correcting accessibility issues.

That is: think about accessibility at the very beginning.

The ramifications between adding accessibility features in the design phase and fixing it after deployment, can often be hundred or thousandfold. Imagine if you’re ready to launch your solution and you find you have 100 accessibility issues?

Accessibility is certainly an extra effort during the design phase, especially when it is new for the design team, however, the best place to start thinking about accessibility is in this phase before the first line of code is even written.

Plan Ahead

There are many things that can be accomplished early on, such as:

  • How will we provide keyboard access?
  • What will be the shortcut keys?
  • How will we label images?
  • How are we going to provide video captions?
  • What will the error messages be?
  • What colors should we be using?

Designers should understand exactly which components they will define.

Developers should know how they are going to implement an accessible design specification.

And, there should be a clear identification of where in the organization the responsibility of making the final accessibility check rests.

Therefore, when it gets to the testers there should be very little issues with accessibility and can turn into a true time and cost savings.

For more information:

  • Learn more about IBM Accessibility’s solutions and best practices that speed development efforts and help ensure web and mobile applications conform to industry accessibility standards.