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Building Digital Experiences For People With Disability

Posted by: Nikki Tabberrah

October 20, 2022


According to the CDC, 1 in 4 Americans lives with some type of functional disability. These disabilities may affect a person’s mobility, vision, hearing, cognitive functions, and ability to manage independent living and self-care. Moreover, these limitations may also affect their capacity to interact with digital products that are now vital to everyday living. 

When designing digital experiences, businesses and developers should always empathize with their target users – disabled or not. While it’s easier to code features for most users, this is not the case when designing experiences for the differently abled. In creating inclusive app designs, all types of abilities and limitations must be taken into consideration. That’s why experimenting with accessibility features with the use of assistive technologies is crucial in developing that perfect product that can cater to a wide variety of users.


Related read: Is Your App Gender-Inclusive? Read This To Find Out!

What are assistive technologies?

Assistive technologies are products, systems or equipment that enhance learning, working and everyday living for people with diverse abilities. Becoming familiar with certain accessibility features can help developers determine the best digital tools to support enjoyable user experiences for America’s 26%.

Types of assistive technologies

Color modification

People with low vision can benefit from color modification features. High contrast modes such as the dark mode can make visual elements pop on the interface making digital content easier to see. In bright environments and high-glare situations such as the use of mobile devices under the sun, enabling color modifications can ease eye strain for more comfortable use.

In UI design, color and contrast modifications can also go as far as supporting people with color vision deficiency. Poor color contrasts affect their ability to interact with interfaces efficiently. To improve accessibility in UI, avoid the color combinations such as green/red, green/brown, blue/purple, and green/blue among many others. Using these poor color contrast not only gives color-blinded users a headache but also impacts the usability of call-to-action buttons, links and hierarchy of information.


Related read: Choosing The Right Colors For Your Mobile App


Voice control

It empowers people with limited dexterity or visual impairment to do more with the use of mobile technology. This helps people with disabilities interact with buttons and screens using their voices. Voice assistants are virtually embedded in almost all devices and this makes life way easier for everyone seeking ways to get things done hands-free.


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Switch Devices

These are devices that allow users with motor impairments to control technology such as a computer or a smartphone without the need for peripheral accessories such as keyboards and computer mouse. It is a simple way to activate control using various switch types across a plethora of interfaces.

One of the most common switches looks like a big colored button. This can be placed on a user’s hand, elbow, feet or wherever they feel comfortable using it. While in use, the screen usually has a focus indicator that moves automatically across the elements on the screen. The user now clicks by triggering the switch. There are many different switches out there and the purpose may differ according to the user’s need. 

Click here to watch an interesting video on how renowned theoretical physicist, Dr Stephen Hawking used a cheek switch to manipulate a computer system while battling his progressive ALS. 

Screen readers

Considered to be the most common assistive technology for people with visual impairments such as those with limited vision or experiencing blindness, a screen reader is a type of software that reads out load any on-screen text. Aside from text, it can also read button labels or alt text for images. Screen readers are also beneficial for those with reading challenges or even users who are learning English as their second language. 

Alternative text

Alternative text or aptly known as alt text translates visual elements into a text-based user interface. It describes images for the visually impaired and is also useful for context when images fail to load due to poor internet connection or any hardware limitations that struggles to process large files or images. 

Closed Captioning 

For the hearing impaired, captioning technologies make their lives easier by a ton. Closed captions enable a user to understand what is being said during meetings at work settings or when watching movies and television shows. Innovations such as live transcribers are also available to assist these users with understanding telephone calls in real time. 

A.T. For All

These technologies exist to aid differently-abled individuals but this does not mean that you’d have to be disabled in order to enjoy its conveniences. Busy individuals may benefit from some of these ATs as many of them provide hands-free experiences while on the go. While homemakers can get the most out of their buck by using their home assistant device’s voice control features to get them up to speed with their household schedules and play music without having to prompt it on their phones. These are some practical uses available for most of us, but considering its main objective, the future looks bright. 

The world of A.T. continues to evolve and innovators are continuously developing newer and more convenient ways to empower people with disabilities in the realm of modern technology.