Making content inclusive can involve hard work and compromise. Don’t disable your users for your own convenience.
Nut free schools
My 6 year old is a picky eater. Of the few things she’ll eat, she loves snacking on nuts, and is partial to ricecake covered in Nutella.
Unfortunately, her school is a nut free zone, like many are these days. This is inconvenient for us, and we have to put a bit of extra effort into planning snacks and packed lunches. But it’s an inconvenience that’s put into perspective somewhat when you consider that there are children there with severe nut allergies. Contact with nuts could land them in hospital or worse.
Digital accessibility can be inconvenient too
As with so many issues in the physical world, this has a direct parallel with digital issues. We might have great reasons for sending her to school with nuts. It’s sugar-free, really healthy, easy to eat, something she enjoys – qualities it’s hard to find in other snacks. But we don’t do it, because we don’t want to land another child in hospital.
Similarly, you might have really good reasons behind your design choices (and I’m talking about all aspects of design). But to make your site fully inclusive, you will need to make some compromises.
- Using parallax scrolling on your site might look really pretty – to you. It gives your site an ‘edge’. But for some of your users, it triggers a migraine that can write off their whole day.
- Colours that don’t contrast enough might be just the ones you want to fully showcase your brand identity. But users who can’t make out what you’re saying will leave your site, feeling dejected.
- Using custom fonts in social media might make you stand out, but screenreader users will have no idea what you’re saying.
A lot of inclusivity is directly related to the words you write, too. When thinking through titles for this blog, for example, the immediate one that came to me was some kind of pun on the use of ‘nuts’ to mean ‘crazy’. But terms like that are ableist towards mentally ill people. Words like ‘wild’ or ‘bizarre’ are better.
It’s such a shame. ‘Nuts’ has such lovely pun potential! I love puns! I love puns so much I want to capitalise all of this! What a spoilsport. *Grumpy face emoji*.
But to a mentally ill person, ‘nuts’ is part of a constant societal reinforcement of a damaging narrative. And overuse of capitals is not helpful to dyslexic people. So I don’t do it; no matter how much I might want to.
Please don’t hurt people through your design just because it looks pretty or sounds good. Find another way.
Understanding Success Criterion 2.3.3: Animation from Interactions gives more detail about parallax scrolling and similar interactions
The WebAim colour contrast checker can help your choose accessible brand colours.
‘Nuts’, ‘Bananas’ & ‘Crackers’: Stop Referring To My Mental Illness As A Food – an article from Refinery29 on offensive mental health terms
Hootsuite blog on inclusive design for social media – shows a video of a screenreader trying to read custom social media fonts