Accessibility User Experience (UX) topic overview/definition

Accessibility: Concept Definition

Accessibility is the ability to access (i.e., use and/or interact with) a product or service. In the design context, accessibility means that a product or service should be able to be used by everyone, regardless of a person’s physical, economic or cultural status. Studies have shown that accessible design benefits not only users with disabilities, but everyone.

Accessibility is related to the concept of usability, but it does not have the same meaning. Usability refers to the extent to which a user can achieve his or her goals with a product, with sufficient comfort and efficiency. When a product has poor usability, the user will experience increased effort or encounter barriers during use. However, when a product is inaccessible, people are excluded from using it altogether, because they cannot interact with it for various reasons.

David Benyon, in his book Designing Interactive Systems, lays out the reasons that people can be excluded from an inaccessible product:

  1. Physical—e.g., someone does not have the strength to operate a control or cannot read the instructions
  2. Conceptual—e.g., someone does not understand the user instructions or has a different mental model
  3. Economic—e.g., someone cannot afford the product
  4. Cultural—e.g., someone does not understand a metaphor that is used as the basis of the product interaction
  5. Social—e.g., someone is not part of a social group with whom he/she can interact, or does not understand social conventions once in a group

As accessibility means the difference between a design’s success and its failure at the earliest juncture on the release of a product, it must remain foremost in a designer’s mind. Thus, appreciating the dimensions of its impact vis-à-vis a target audience is vital. Appropriate research can expose the far-reaching intricacies of a potential accessibility problem.

For your convenience, we’ve collected all UX literature that deals with Accessibility. Here’s the full list: