The Psychology of Accessible Web Design: Understanding the User Experience of People with Disabilities
The art of making the accessible web design to blind users who encounter those with various disabilities does not just depend on WCAG guidelines. The web accessibility initiative also mainly depends on the knowledge of psychology.
Web designers and owners must ensure website accessibility based on psychology and how it influences the user’s behavior, actions, and interaction. Web accessibility is mainly visual environments depending on properly using HTML, emphasizing more meaning than appearance.
We at ADA Site Compliance not only know the legal and regulatory requirements for website compliance. We ensure compliance based on the users’ psychology to provide universal access to your website.
We are the #1 source for all ADA website compliance tips and work. We have a team of accessibility experts to clear any doubts and help you create the ADA-compliant site-accessible website you are looking for.
What is web accessibility?
Web accessibility defines the ease and extent users can navigate and use a website or mobile app. Accessible web designs enable people with various abilities and disabilities to perceive, navigate, interact, and contribute to the internet.
Accessibility is not just confined to users with disabilities. It widens the user pool and maximizes the user experience. Accessible websites consequently ensure accessibility with better search results and better overall usability.
What is Psychology?
Psychology studies a person’s mental and behavioral features connected with their actions and how they handle situations. Knowing a person’s behaviors, mental state, environmental effects, and timing determine their decision-making skills and general operations.
With this knowledge, the designer has an edge in designing websites, apps, and products that accommodate human behavior.
Influence of Psychology on Accessibility
The UX laws have an essential role while discussing psychology in design and setting the standards to build products remotely. The laws influence users’ actions while navigating products. It thus helps designers understand how users will want their product built and why they do not like other products.
The laws imply the human mental state encourages familiarity, and users are most likely to abandon products that require they learn their workability. For example, visually impaired accessing websites with a screen reader because they are accustomed to the content announced to them following a pattern.
Designers who complicate their design only lead to frustrated users who may abandon the site. Besides, products requiring extra cognitive strain only lead to users spending more time deciding and taking action.
It is always the first and last thing the user does on a product they remember. So whether the onboarding process, introduction, or end of the process is successful or not summarizes whether the users will return.
How to Use Personas to Start Thinking About Accessibility
Personas play an essential role in UX design. Having personas with disabilities like communication, movement, or mental health impairments helps designers develop UI. Here are the most common disabilities users face and how to overcome them for an accessible website.
Users with hearing impairments will find listening to audio clips challenging. The best way to increase their web accessibility is by providing transcripts of all spoken audio clips, while videos should be available with subtitles.
Some users may find making detailed mouse movements or holding down multiple keyboard keys difficult. In this case, the website should permit keyboard website navigation and not have image maps requiring precise mouse positioning.
Cognitive disabilities are less important than physical disabilities when considering the user interface while creating websites. Users with different spatial reasoning skills and short-term memory capacity may find navigating websites difficult.
Besides, blind users with subjective experience with dyslexia may find reading long pages difficult. Having headings that can be scanned and hypertext anchors for important words will prove helpful to them and blind users.
Similarly, foreign-language users and those with spelling disabilities may find it difficult to conduct searches because they need perfect spelling. One remedy is to include spelling checkers in search engines. Other options include advanced information retrieval like query-by-example and a similarity search.
Users with visual disabilities are most affected by digital accessibility concerns, as web pages are generally visual. The wrong background and foreground colors can make pages unreadable.
However, they can access the text on most websites and pages with screen readers. Structuring the page with proper headings also proves helpful to the blind users’ subjective experience. It facilitates easy scanning of text, and they can also instruct the screen reader to skip boring sections and head to the next level heading.
Using ALT attributes as alternative images will also prove helpful to obstructions blind users encounter. The attributes can be used to describe the image, but it is even better to describe its role or meaning instead.
Image maps should have ALT attributes for the link options. They describe the destinations as the users with visual impairments move the cursors around in a mainly visual environment. These measures increase accessibility for the visually impaired and users with reduced eyesight.
They generally need large fonts for better reading, which is why it’s a standard web browser feature. All information should also be encoded with absolute and not relative font sizes. This way, users can adjust the text size as deemed appropriate.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Provide Four Layers of Guidance for UX Designers
The web content accessibility guidelines have a set of guidelines, techniques, and design principles. They provide a standard for UX designers, content creators, and developers to follow.
They comprise of:
- Principles: The top layer of guidance, with the four principles of Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust, form the four foundational principles for web accessibility.
- Guidelines: The next layer is the 12 guidelines providing the essential goals designers must work towards for an accessible design. Though not testable, they provide designers with the necessary framework and objectives to understand and implement the success criteria better.
- Success criteria: Each guideline comprises testable success criteria that verify a web application or website accessibility. There are three levels to each criterion A, AA, and AAA. Level A is the minimal level. Most companies design and strive to meet Level AA compliance, which covers most legal regulations.
- Sufficient and Advisory Techniques: Various techniques fall into two categories for each guideline and success criterion. The two categories are techniques for meeting the success criteria and are advisory.
How do we make our designs accessible?
When creating an accessible design, here are a few things to consider. It is not enough for web designers or owners to know how psychology influences the building of accessible products. They must also know how to put that knowledge to good use.
Ask yourself where you are and where you must go
An invaluable starting point is having a baseline measure. It tells you how accessible your website is and how much more web accessibility is required.
And this is what is stipulated in the WCAG through its four primary principles. They are:
- Perceivable: The website user interface should be presented for user accessibility. The website content should be visually seen on the screen or read using assistive technologies like screen readers or Braille output. Adding features that help users with limited disabilities get the most information and successfully fulfill their tasks also helps. Examples include including captions to video content, using alternative text and labels, and resizing features.
- Operable: This means the website should be easily accessible using various tools like keyboards, pointers, or finger sensors. This is all necessary as all users cannot access a mouse.
- Understandable: Ensure visitors understand the site’s user interface, information, and functions. In short, the information should easily access the reader without too much cognitive strain. This is possible through the following:
- a) Easy-to-read and understand text that even a ninth-grader can read
- b) Avoiding the use of complex words
- c) Using short sentences and commands
- d) Having clear labels showing users how to give information.
- Robust: Your website should be robust where it can be operated across various devices, platforms, and browsers. A responsive screen that functions across all devices is a great way to achieve this.
Your website can reach compliance with WCAG A, AA, or AAA accessibility levels based on compliance with the WCAG 2.1 guidelines, largely comprised of these four categories:
Proper use of colors
The best way to properly use website colors is by ensuring you do not depend solely on colors to convey information. Thick borders, bold text, underlines, tooltips, or italics with colors help.
Besides, it is a good practice to maintain proper color contrast (preferably 4.5:1) between the text and backgrounds. It is always better to avoid using flashing lights in UI or pop-ups. They pose a risk of triggering seizures and other light-sensitive responses.
Use more text on web pages
Users with visual impairments generally use assistive technology like screen readers to convert text to speech. They can hear the words on a site using well-written and descriptive Alt text, which also helps show how blind users perceive images.
Adding periods in abbreviations also make reading text easier for screen readers. And offering transcriptions of all audio resources on the site and captions/subtitles for videos proves helpful to visual-impaired users.
As it is generally easier for those with reading or vision impairments to read text blocks with narrow widths, the WCAG recommends mainlining text character count be below 80 characters. Avoiding using justified text also helps let users zoom 200% into the site without having to scroll horizontally. And while writing content, the WCAG clearly states that all web content should be written at a lower secondary education level.
Visual cues are important for keyboard access. This means all fonts and buttons should be large enough for users with shaking hands to click. Another useful integration is letting users scroll through links with the TAB key.
All forms with clearly defined boundaries, helper text, and visible text provide for better web and accessibility features. Form fields with clearly defined boundaries prove helpful to users with mobility and cognitive impairments.
Labels in fields are essential as placeholders disappear while typing. Besides, labels remain useful for some time after too.
Proper navigation and flow
Most UX designs use visibility for primary actions, while hover is for secondary actions. In the case of people with sighted users using speech recognition for navigation, they need to be able to see all actionable items.
Make it a point to give users enough time to provide time-related information while filling out forms. And lastly, have a provision for users to go back in the flow if and when required. Anyone can make mistakes, especially those having inhibitory factors.
Just implementing the various guidelines does not ensure web accessibility. You need to test your website, not just with tools but also with human testing. It is even better if you have people with varying disabilities to check your website in addition to using web accessibility initiatives and testing tools.
Why is an implementation based on psychology so important?
With about 15% of the population having a disability, it is necessary to have an accessible website. And building an accessible website is impossible without understanding the users’ psychology.
Besides, there are now laws about websites with accessibility problems. And any disabled user has the right to place a case against any website owner with an inaccessible website.
So understanding human psychology and implementing it in your website design has massive benefits. It not only proves helpful to disabled users but also prevents website owners from facing expensive lawsuits because of poorly designed websites.
We receive lots of questions about web accessibility. We have here listed out a few most frequently asked questions and answers.
Why is web accessibility important for people with disabilities?
Web accessibility is so essential for people with disabilities as it helps promote user experience. And it is not just the users with disabilities who benefit from perceived web accessibility through accessible designs.
There are situations where people without disabilities may be in limiting situations and appreciate an accessible website—for example, watching a movie in silent mode. At the same time, the baby is asleep or has to read captions to understand the video because of noisy environments.
How to make web content accessible to people with disabilities?
Multiple changes can be made to a website to ensure it is accessible to people with disabilities. It includes adding alt text to images, using descriptive URLs, letting users adjust the font size, providing keyboard navigation, avoiding using placeholder text in forms, and maintaining proper color contrast.
What is accessible design for people with disabilities?
Accessible design is the art of designing a website so that even users with disabilities can access the website. Everyone should be able to read the content and navigate through the website.
Why do UX designers consider designing websites for users with disabilities?
UX designers must ensure websites and web browsers are designed so everyone can access the website, irrespective of their abilities, situation, or context.
Website accessibility is undoubtedly essential today. With so many disabled users worldwide and the laws about website accessibility, everyone should have an accessible website.
Understanding the user persona and implementing these changes can seem daunting to many. If this is the case, there is no need to worry when we are around. At ADA Site Compliance, we are the #1 source for all ADA website compliance tips and work.
We have a team of accessibility professionals on board to help create the ADA-compliant website you want. Our focus is to create a new, world wide web, where users with every disability are free from stigma by providing a seamless web accessibility solution.
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The ADA prohibits any private businesses that provide goods or services to the public, referred to as “public accommodations,” from discriminating against those with disabilities. Federal courts have ruled that the ADA includes websites in the definition of public accommodation. As such, websites must offer auxiliary aids and services to low-vision, hearing-impaired, and physically disabled persons, in the same way a business facility must offer wheelchair ramps, braille signage, and sign language interpreters, among other forms of assistance.
All websites must be properly coded for use by electronic screen readers that read aloud to sight-impaired users the visual elements of a webpage. Additionally, all live and pre-recorded audio content must have synchronous captioning for hearing-impaired users.
Websites must accommodate hundreds of keyboard combinations, such as Ctrl + P to print, that people with disabilities depend on to navigate the Internet.
Litigation continues to increase substantially. All business and governmental entities are potential targets for lawsuits and demand letters. Recent actions by the Department of Justice targeting businesses with inaccessible websites will likely create a dramatic increase of litigation risk.
Big box retailer Target Corp. was ordered to pay $6 million – plus $3.7 million more in legal costs – to settle a landmark class action suit brought by the National Federation of the Blind. Other recent defendants in these cases have included McDonald’s, Carnival Cruise Lines, Netflix, Harvard University, Foot Locker, and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Along with these large companies, thousands of small businesses have been subject to ADA website litigation.
Defendants in ADA lawsuits typically pay plaintiff's legal fees, their own legal fees for defending the litigation, and potential additional costs. In all, the average cost can range from tens of thousands of dollars, to above six figures. There are also high intangible costs, such as added stress, time and human capital, as well as reputational damage. Furthermore, if the remediation is incomplete, copycat suits and serial filers can follow, meaning double or triple the outlay. It's vital to implement a long-term strategy for ensuring your website is accessible and legally compliant.