As the world becomes ever more digital – a process that’s been accelerated by the covid pandemic – it’s even more important that no-one is left behind. We heard from our friends over at Rush Digital on how they’ve got accessibility in design at the forefront of their minds – originally published here.
What is accessibility in relation to tech/design?
Accessibility in design and products is about ensuring there are no barriers to using or accessing digital products for anyone, including those with physical, cognitive or situational disabilities or even for people with restrictions to bandwidth or speed.
It’s about ensuring everyone has equal access to information and functionality. So it basically comes down to designing for equality.
Why is it important?
There are also a large number of potential users to any product who may be experiencing temporary disabilities such as broken arms or hands.
Plus, depending on the situation, a user may have trouble viewing your app if they are out and about. One example could be that for the Z app, if a user is outside and wants to buy fuel, the glare on the screen could make this difficult. So we need to ensure the colour contrast on the screen is strong enough to allow for this situation.
How did RUSH decide that accessibility was something we needed to upskill in?
During the design and build of the NZ COVID Tracer app, it became apparent that we needed to grow our knowledge in this area. After the app release, we were able to focus on how to grow our accessibility knowledge across the team and come up with a plan for how we might do that.
How did you start the process?
Our first step was to conduct a full day training session for the design, engineering, and testing teams in house. This was a great intro but was very web specific, and as we mostly work within the app or software space we wanted to go deeper in that area.
I had worked with Chandra at Access Advisors in a previous role, and so I reached out to see if she’d be able to help our team upskill with more of a focus on product specifically.
Together we made a plan for creating a set of remote training sessions for the entire team, as well as documenting how we do accessibility at RUSH for all our staff to access. We hope that the training videos and documentation will help our staff members upskill in their own time and at their own pace. We then sent this proposal to the leadership team, who were more than happy to back it.
What was the accessibility training like?
Like a lot of training it depends on the trainer! In our first session with Chandra, her colleague Julian who uses a screen reader took us through one of our own apps using his screen reader. Many of our team found this incredibly illuminating. It’s one thing to try using a screen reader yourself, but seeing someone who uses one day-to-day use it to try and use something in the real world was so valuable and sparked a lot of great conversations in the studio afterwards!
What were some of the major insights or eye-openers during the training sessions?
Because our training sessions have been specifically designed for product, I find that I tend to come out of each session with lots of ideas of how to improve the work we currently have in-flight. For example, we recently had a session about animation, sound and haptic feedback on devices
After that I spent ages going through apps on my phone and really paying attention to how they used sounds and haptic feedback. When used well, they make an experience feel more complex and layered. It’s almost like when products interact over more than one sense, they somehow have more depth and feel more real.
How will you put accessibility considerations into product design in the future?
We are already using our learnings in design, and more discussions are taking place within the design chapter about accessibility.
Once we have our documentation in place, we will hold ourselves more accountable to ensuring every product we create reaches a minimum level of accessibility performance.
It’s a journey, not a destination – so we will constantly be learning and improving!