Summary: Advancing accessibility toward quality and equity means you do not simply meet compliance criteria; instead, you redefine your access efforts for a better experience. Instead of just meeting access guidelines, we need to understand that quality accessibility experiences matter to folks with disabilities.
Advancing accessibility toward quality and equity
Imagine a world where accessibility isn’t just a compliance or accommodations obligation but a profound commitment that redefines inclusion. Beyond meeting regulatory standards, it’s about merging two powerful goals: quality and equity. This means seeing accessibility differently, mainly from a technical task to an opportunity for UX research to make a difference. Equity means that everyone gets the support they need, specifically users with underrepresented needs or so-called ‘extreme users‘. Contrast it with justice (see image below), which centers more accurately on our goals in that we seek to remove the systemic barrier and the cause of inequity. For accessibility, this means technical optimization of proper tagging of content, but also, why tag content if the content format doesn’t even make sense for one of your five major disability types? Equity doesn’t just acknowledge differences; it fights against the barriers those differences create (toward justice). It’s about weaving inclusivity into the very core of our actions. Promoting equity means championing underrepresented voices. We call this Inclusive Design. It’s about collaborating with those facing barriers and acknowledging their insights. This approach isn’t just about “equal”; it’s about “equitable,” ensuring that every individual, regardless of their background, can navigate the path to success.
Getting beyond accessibility compliance
Quality as a goal in your accessibility work isn’t confined to meeting WCAG guidelines. Instead, it’s about crafting experiences that cater to the precise needs of users with disabilities. Define quality from the perspective of your users with disabilities as they navigate your content with Assistive Technology. Note that WCAG 3.0 proposes to address this by making ‘Holistic testing’ with users (aka accessibility testing) mandatory. Meanwhile, for most accessibility efforts, the status quo reality will sadly be that:
- Accessibility is considered a developer task
- UX people are barely involved in accessibility; many have little experience
- User research, such as Ethnographic Interviews with users with disabilities, is not being considered
- Accessibility testing is defined as technical testing (like QA)
Raising quality increases equity for users with disabilities
Quality and equity aren’t separate goals in accessibility. Improving quality often leads to more equitable experiences. It helps to think of it as personalization. For example, the more equitable a service feels to a user, the higher its perceived value or quality.
Instead of following WCAG guidelines like robots or meeting accommodations without consulting users with disabilities, we can do better. Specifically, we can boost quality and equity by giving users with disabilities what they need, in the format they need it, and can offer accessibility “features” that enhance their experiences. This gets us more inclusivity and justice, and for better accessibility, it’s the right thing to do.
Want to learn more? Check out our Accessibility course.
Also, see this FREE 30 minute webinar: Accessibility testing: How to correctly evaluate Section 508