Common barriers in technology for users with disabilities

Person using a refreshable braille display attached to a computer

Native Barriers

A major barrier for people with disabilities using technology in the past was often the technology itself. It was never designed for, nor had accessibility in mind, when it was built.

TVs did not have the ability to allow visually impaired users to access the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) and they did not yet have captions or audio described content.

Thankfully, this is not the case these days. Many operating systems incorporate useful features such as the ability to change text size and font appearance, built-in screen readers, audio described content as a set preference, and a host of external controls for those with motor impairments.

Many phones, computers, and kiosks now contain additional access features to ensure operators can engage with the device and its services.

User Barriers

Often people may have to upskill or train on the use of assistive technology. This can seem daunting, especially for people who might have recently acquired a disability or are new to technology.

Organisations such as the National Council for the Blind of Ireland have dedicated technology training teams to provide consultation, assessments, and training for the visually impaired. This allows them access to education, employment, and a better standard of life and opportunities.

There are many organisations that help with other disabilities – please feel free to contact IA Labs for advice.

Third Party Barriers

You now have an accessible device, assistive software enabled, and you are fully trained on its use. Surely there must be no barriers left?

Unfortunately, this is not always the case; the main barrier for people with disabilities when accessing online services is often the service itself. The website or platform is not built with equality, inclusivity, or accessibility from the start.

“Bolting on” accessibility is an option, but it can be expensive. The solution is to always incorporate the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 from the very beginning and to adhere to the POUR principles:

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understanding
  • Robustness

Building and testing your website or application against the 78 success criteria of WCAG 2.1 ensures these platforms are accessible. When this is combined with good UI/UX design, it creates a great user experience for everyone.

Do you want to break barriers and help build bridges?

IA Labs can provide training to help you better understand the needs of users with disabilities. This is great help when building a website or even just uploading content to ensure it is fully inclusive.

We also perform design consultation on wireframes to give you the opportunity to implement accessibility before issues become too expensive to resolve.

Our fully manual accessibility audits allow you to quickly and efficiently remediate reported issues while receiving constant support and advice from the IA Labs team.

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