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Consider the range of people that will use your product or service

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Access needs, Accessibility

In my first blog post, What we mean when we talk about accessibility, I said that it is common for people to have a narrow understanding of accessibility. It is not just about ensuring that someone blind can use your service. You need to consider the access needs of other people before you can confidently say that your service is accessible.

Four post it notes showing the main types of disability: vision with an eye, hearing with an ear, motor with a hand on a touchscreen and cognitive with a head with a brain

Everyone is different

People have different sensory, cognitive and physical abilities. All too often things are built for the fictional average person. Someone who has perfect vision and hearing, who uses a mouse or touch screen and has good basic literacy.

Very few people are like this, especially when you take into account that a person’s ability changes in different situations. For example, when using a mobile phone in bright daylight, the screen can become harder to see because of the reduced level of contrast. In a busy room, it can be difficult to hear because of the increased background noise. When some people are tired or stressed, information can be harder to understand.

Picture showing permanent deafness similar to ear infection and bartender in noisy bar
Extract from Inclusive a Microsoft Design Toolkit Licence: Creative Commons Attribution

Range of access needs

You must aim to meet the needs of everyone and ensure that someone who has a disability is not excluded.

Here are a bunch of access needs you need to consider:

Example of people with visual impairments

  • I am colorblind and cannot perceive the difference between some colours
  • I have low vision and need to increase the text size in my browser
  • I have low vision and need to use a screen magnifier to make things bigger and cannot read text that has poor contrast
  • I am blind and use a screenreader
  • I am deafblind and use a braille device

A low vision user's computer set up: large monitor at low resolution showing GOV.UK in browser with personalised colour settings. ZoomText preference panel is visible.

Example of people with auditory impairment

  • I am hard of hearing and struggle to hear most things
  • I am Deaf; British Sign Language is my first language and I find English hard to read and write

Example of people with motor impairments

  • I have a mild motor impairment so struggle to use a mouse with fine control
  • I have a medium motor impairment so have to use a keyboard
  • I have a severe motor impairment and am unable to use a mouse or keyboard so use speech recognition software
  • I have a severe motor impairment and speech impediment and use a switch device

Example of people with cognitive impairments

  • I have dyslexia and struggle to process written text
  • I am on the autistic spectrum and have a literal understanding of text
  • I have Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and find it hard to concentrate
  • I have a learning difficulty and need thing to be simple and easy to understand
  • my memory is not as good as it used to be and I get easily confused

Example of people with speech impairments

  • I have a speech impediment and struggle to communicate by speech, I am much more confident and effective when using text based communication

Example of people with seizure disorders

  • I have epilepsy and my seizures can be triggered by flashing content

Can these people use your website unsupported? Can they use your call centre, or your face to face support sites? Can they use your paper forms?

Assisted digital

Not everyone will be able to use your service unsupported. Some people who lack the digital skills, trust, confidence, kit and/or connectivity to use online services independently. These people need someone to help them, so they can also benefit from new digital services. We call this help assisted digital support. This is covered by the service standard. Many services are already delivering excellent assisted digital support.

Bottom line

Until you consider the needs of the range of people that will be using your service you can’t confirm that you are not excluding people. You also won’t be making the cost savings that digital services can provide as you will be forcing some people to use more expensive alternate channels.


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