Curb cuts, automatic doors, text messages – they’re conveniences we all take for granted.
Yet each of these things – and so many others – has its origins in accessibility. They are just some of the many ways that accessibility has and continues to make life better for everyone, not just people with disabilities.
- Curb cuts help those who use wheelchairs and walkers maneuver the rise of a curb when crossing a street. But, that’s equally true for those pushing strollers, riding a bike or pulling wheeled luggage.
- Automatic doors help those with mobility challenges enter and exit buildings. They also let people without disability push carts or simultaneously juggle keys, cell phone and wallet as they go through.
- Text messaging was originally created for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. But most of us now rely on this critical function of our cell phones daily.
- Speech-to-text and text-to-speech applications allow those who may be unable to use a keyboard the ability to use cell phones and tablets and also provide hands-free options for anyone who needs to multi-task.
“What we do for accessibility helps everyone,” said Glenn Bradford, principal – system engineer for AT&T. “For example, color contrast can make a screen easier to read for for people with deteriorating eyesight, but also can help anyone who is taking a quick glance and consuming content on the go.”
Nowhere can accessibility inspire better, more thoughtful design than in the field of technology and web development. “For our team at AT&T, accessibility is directly tied to helping all customers connect and communicate better,” said Jason Whorton, senior lead UX designer/architect.
Commitment to accessibility begins at square one: the design phase. Jason and Glenn describe how many developers get caught up in creating solutions that are too narrowly focused. That, they say, isn’t the way it should be done. The Web should be fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language – or ability.
This universal approach should apply to devices, too. “Don’t design for the device,” Glenn said. “Design for universal standards, so that these digital tools continue to enable accessibility as the speed of change gets faster and faster.”
Their advice for the best way to future-proof digital solutions: Build in accessibility from the ground up.
So, what’s next for accessible tech? Glenn and Jason point to the evolution of operating systems, devices and hardware and their impact on the disabled community. These improved tools will continue to rapidly evolve and expand digital access for all people.
“Accessibility design really is for everyone,” Jason said. “It’s about helping all people in all ways. That ties back to everything AT&T stands for.”
Learn more about products and services to assist people with disabilities.