Just as privacy statements, accessibility statements are part of UX design

Sebastian Greger

Mandated by law under certain circumstances, but always good practice and a sign of inclusive thinking, accessibility statements (and placing them in a navigation scheme) may sometimes be considered merely a compliance chore rather than a subject of good design themselves. In an article on the Deque blog, Patrick Sturdivant highlights a personal perspective on how important a part of UX such statement can be:

The author describes the mindset when first assessing a new website as a screen reader user:

When approaching a new site these are some of the items I review:

  1. The general site layout: Using my screen reader, I look at how to navigate the content offered through various links and navigational features like headings, menus, search bars, and tabs
  2. The graphics that are labeled: This often provides an understanding of the site’s message
  3. A review of the accessibility statement, if applicable

Just as privacy-conscious users may want to first peek into a site’s privacy statements (and would hope to find a well-designed, approachable, and comprehensive document rather than a wall of legalese, which unfortunately is still the standard despite GDPR mandating otherwise, users may want to initially access the accessibility statement before using a website or online service – for example to assess whether any of the documented limitations negates their goal at hand. This is of particular importance for any website that contains tools or interactive applications, where certain limitations may render it unusable to start with.

Sturdivant puts forward the idea that the accessibility statement could have a much more prominent place than being tucked away with other legal links in some footer:

I’d love to change my “new site” reconnaissance process to just “read accessibility statement,” then “use site.”

This is a great impulse. Just as with putting effort in the transparency of a web offering’s privacy practice, the (in certain circumstances even legally required) transparency regarding a site’s accessibility or partial lack thereof should also be easy to find and understand. It actually makes me think whether the accessibility statement should even be linked to right where the skiplink, another important feature of inclusive design, is – right at the beginning of the user’s journey through a page.

The W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) provides a handy tool:

I'm Sebastian, Sociologist and Interaction Designer. This journal is mostly about bringing toge­ther social science and design for inclusive, privacy-focused, and sustainable "human-first" digital strategies. I also tend to a "digital garden" with carefully curated resources.

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