Universal design is a collection of ideas that builds the design foundation to create accessible products. Learn the key principles of universal design and how designing with these ideas in mind can improve the user experience of your product for everyone, regardless of their abilities.
- Universal design, also known as inclusive design, is a critical piece to create better accessible experiences. This concept should guide your development because it benefits all of your users, regardless of their abilities. Accessibility and universal design are very similar concepts. Some may consider them the same, but I believe there's a good distinction here to make. While accessibility is about creating experiences so people with disabilities can independently consume, universal design is a more broader concept which seeks to include as many people as possible, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life.
The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University defines universal design as the "design of products and environments to be usable "by all people, to the greatest extent possible, "without the need for adaptation or specialized design." This means that rather than making special considerations for people with disabilities after you design your product, you should instead consider them from the very start. Something that will be usable and enjoyable by as people as possible regardless of their abilities.
For example, you can adapt a watch to have screen reading capabilities so it is accessible for the blind. This is an example of making a product accessible and there's nothing wrong with this. This is a very good and inclusive design choice. But on a more broad concept you can design a watch to be inclusive from the very start without the need of special capabilities. For example, a watch that can be consumed by people with different disabilities either using vision or using via touch.
Universal design is the answer for a very common question. Can I make an alternative version of this app that is simpler and accessible for people with disabilities? Although providing an alternative experience is definitely one way to make it accessible, the better question to ask is why not make it the default experience for everyone? You might have some good reasons to create the alternative experience but let me give you some good reasons to make it the default experience for everyone. If you make it the default experience for everyone it will probably be a better experience for everyone, not only for people with disabilities.
It would also be respecting the user's privacy. Some users may not want to be excluded from an experience just because they have a disability. They shouldn't need to identify themselves as having a disability just to use your app. From the app's perspective you're giving an accessible experience regardless of your ability. Another thing to consider is that you will be forking your code leading to an inconsistent experience. Adding new features could become double the work and maintenance. You may leave the accessible experience behind in future parody and that won't be a good thing.
Lastly, consider that designing and developing a single experience within constraints may actually lead to significant innovations for your product. Charles Eames, a famous and praised American designer once said that the design depends largely on constraints. He elaborated further. "Here is one of the few effective keys "to the design problem: the ability of the designer "to recognize as many of the constraints as possible; "his willingness and enthusiasm for working "within these constraints. "Constraints of price, of size, of strength, "of balance, of surface, of time, and so forth.
"Each problem has its own peculiar list." In design thinking, which is a set of creative strategies to use during the process of designing new products, there's a concept called extreme users. Stanford Design School says that "the needs "that are uncovered through the extreme users "are often also needs of a wider population." So instead of interviewing and understanding only your mainstream users, you will also want to take a look at extreme users. What are their needs? When looking at extreme users you will uncover not only their needs but the needs of a wider population.
- What is accessibility?
- Using TalkBack and Switch Access
- Key principles of universal design
- Communicating meaningful error messages
- Providing a clear hierarchy of information
- Adding meaning and operability to user controls
- Providing unique and meaningful labels
- Improving the user experience for accessibility services
- Creating and handling custom accessibility actions
- Testing your app for accessibility