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Tech Helps Design for Inclusive Space

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Being a lover of all aspects of design leads me down some really interesting paths.  There are some super cool ideas floating around out there and I love seeing what is being designed to make the world more accessible. When design intersects with technology, there are so many possibilities. So the announcement of the launch of the first online platform for digital accessibility really piqued my interest.

'DeveloperSpace' serves as a community, exchange platform, and a source of ideas both for developers and for companies. It is meant to be a hub and community for assistive technologies.

Did you know that over three billion people have access to the internet? However, “over one billion people have no ready access to information and communication technologies (ICT) as a result of personal barriers, (digital) illiteracy or age-related restrictions”. DeveloperSpace was designed in order to offer those with the aforementioned barriers access to digital technologies.

As part of the Prosperity4All project, this unique online platform offers “a one-stop shop to find resources, components and people to conceive, develop, test and market novel accessible solutions”.

The requirements for inclusive spaces for those with a disability are as vast as the users that access them. (Check out their accessibilty masterlist ~ wow!). This new project does not aim to reinvent the wheel, rather it brings together elements that already exist. Their hope is to have anyone – developers, scientists, companies, individuals – be able to put accessibility into play with ease on their digital platforms. They want to make digital accessibility easier, faster, and more cost effective.

According to Dr. Matthias Peissner who is heading the project, “we want to provide a platform that brings together elements that already exist: a place where developers, for example, can find modules, codes, diagrams and ideas from other developers or scientists and can use these themselves. We want to bring together existing research findings to create new solutions that actually work in a market context. So developers, companies and anyone who is interested in putting accessibility into practice can find tools, business models, applications, and much more on the platform".

The DeveloperSpace platform allows people to create assistive functions for developers of assistive technologies, researchers, companies that install assistive functions in existing products, public institutions, and political decision-makers. It was developed by experts in Europe, Canada and the US.

And usability design is something that designers and tech developers are paying close attention to. Google certainly is. They consider that accessibility should not be considered a 'feature'. In other words they don’t think accessibility is optional, rather a mandatory requirement. They think everything should be made with accessibility in mind. This is good news.

According to the head of Google’s accessibility efforts, “Google has made Android completely usable by voice, teamed up with outside vendors to give Android eye-tracking capabilities, and launched the Google Impact Challenge, a $20 million fund to generate ideas on how to make the world more accessible to the billion-odd individuals in the world living with disabilities".

In their eyes, design with accessibility in mind will benefit everyone, not only those living with disability. If you’ve every had trouble reading text due to the size or colour of a font on a website, or had trouble hearing when you are out somewhere loud, then you’ve had accessibility issues that many people deal with everyday. Companies like Google, and platforms like DeveloperSpace aim to even the playing field for all by using technology to assist with those types of challenges.

But where do you start when you want to make your site more accessible? It may seem like a daunting task, but there are simple ways to start the process. It could be something as simple as describing your link rather than just saying “click here” for example. To make your own organization or company website more accessible, you might:

  • Consider using alt tags. These are the words that pop up when you hover your mouse over an image. For persons with a visual impairment and using a screen reader, ensure that your alt tags are as descriptive as possible.
  • Create subtitles and transcripts on your videos. Here’s a handy little how to video
  • Practice smart colour choices on your site. Black text on white background is best.
  • Keep your copy simple. While this is a good idea for any audience, it can be especially useful to those such as the elderly or with a learning disability.

These are but a few tips on usability design, and there are so many more ideas out there. Hopefully one day, all websites and available technology will be designed with full inclusion in mind. And it looks like we are fast moving in that direction. That is a good thing.

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Check out the tips in this article if you would like to encourage an organization or company to create a more accessible website.

Topics: Technology inclusion Disability digital technology web online platform Google