Accessibility + Universal Design = Value

Accessibility  Universal Design

We are part of the massive diversity. We are not actually disabled but we are living with a disability.

The hardware and software we are using are disabled. The hardware and software need to be enabled to work with the range of human diversity.

The world is getting older, by 2030, There are going to be more people in retirement age than babies in the United State of America. The number is expected to reach 78 million many acquire disabilities but not identify as a person with disability. Currently 8% of the world’s population is above 65 years which is expected to rise to 17% by 2030 from 901 million to 1.4 billion. (Source)

1 billion people worldwide have some kind of disability, and this number is like to grow as world becomes older. (Source)

What is Universal Design?

It is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. This is not a special requirement, for the benefit of only a minority of the population. It is a fundamental condition of good design. If an environment is accessible, usable, convenient and a pleasure to use, everyone benefits from it.

In 1997, Ronald led a working group of architects, product designers, engineers, and environmental design researchers, to create the 7 principles of universal design to help guide the design process of environments, products, and communications.

Here is a summary of the 7 principles: -

Principle 1: Equitable Use

The design should be useful and marketable to customers with diverse abilities.

Principle 2: Flexibility in Use

The design contains a wide range of personal preferences and abilities.

Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive Use

Make sure the use of the design is super easy to understand, regardless of the experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level the user have.

Principle 4: Perceptible Information

The design transmits necessary information efficiently to the user, irrespective of ambient conditions or the user's physical abilities.

Principle 5: Tolerance for Error

The design should be able to reduces risks and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

Principle 6: Low Physical Effort 

The design should be used effectively and easily and with a minimum of exhaustion.

Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use

Right size and space is offered for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility.

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Accessibility depends on these three factors 

completion - The task is achievable with any way the user expects.

Efficiency - User spends minimum possible time to understand and carry out the process

Satisfaction - The experience from start point to end point is delightful.

Major areas where accessibility comes into picture:

  • Operating Systems
  • Authoring tools
  • User agents
  • Web content/Application (WCAG)

It boils down to two factors to think about, While in design phase:

Accessibility - integrating with assistive technologies to level the playing field.

Usability - To make overall experience delightful to all users

How to ensure good universal design

In a very simple language, an accessible and usable design constitutes a Universal Design. The role of actual users is crucial to achieve it. It is a good idea to involve actual users as early as possible in design phase. Comparative analysis also helps in adapting good practice and user delight. 

Benefits of Universal Design

In the USA an estimated 48.9 million people, or 19.4% population have disability  and this market segment has a combine spending power of $220 billion. An estimated 34.2 million Americans, around 17.5%, have a functional limitation (Source). Globally, the extended market is estimated at 2.3 billion people who control incremental 6.9 trillion in annual disposable income. (Source)

UK-Based Tesco reported a 13million Pound of annual increase in sales after making its online site and some other services more accessible. (Source)

Mitsukoshi LTD. Enjoyed a 45% increase in online sales in the year following a web accessibility implementation. (Source)

Value for business and customers

  • Maximize reach, revenues and ultimately profits
  • Increase productivity for all and promotes innovation
  • Generate a positive media response
  • Use as a competitive differentiator
  • Increase customer loyalty
  • Support corporate social responsibility

Implementing Universal design and accessibility attract not only those people with disabilities, but their families, friends, coworkers, and health care professionals also. This can boost your business revenues and can generate a very positive ecosystem for the product.

Disadvantage for not Implementing Universal design and accessibility?

We have talked a lot about the benefits and values of Implementing Universal design and accessibility to the product. Lets talk about the disadvantages of not implementing Universal design and accessibility.

In USA “Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) act prohibits discrimination “on the basis of disability in the activities of public accommodations”. it’s being applied to software and websites as well. If a website is not accessible to those with disabilities, the business could be required to redesign the website, incur monetary damages, and pay attorneys’ fees. 

Here are some examples:

  • Carnival corp agreed to pay $405,000 in damages and penalties for not implementing ADA guidelines. (Source)
  • Target paid $6m in damages and legal fees to settle a class action lawsuit with the National Federation of the blind. (Source)
  • H&R Block paid $100,000 in civil penalties and damages. (Source)

Usability Testing Template

California law sets a minimum dollar amount for damages of $4000 plus attorney's fees for each ADA Violation. Businesses pay anywhere from $10-90K to resolve such claims. ADA web accessibility-related lawsuits exploded with a 181% increase in 2018 over 2017. In 2017, there were 814 cases. In 2018, we tracked 2285 lawsuits filed. (Source)


Access to information is a basic human right. Its everyone’s responsibility to take small steps and contribute to make a product more accessible to the people with disabilities. Developing such product will not only helps you gain more revenues but also help you save a lot of money in lawsuits and fines. 

About Author

UX Author
Praveen Sharma 
HI am a UI/UX Designer, Having 13 years of experience in Web Development, UX/UI Design. Working with HCL Technologies as a Technical Lead UI. 


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