Did you know that people with disabilities are the world’s largest minority? Designing your visualizations to serve users who need accessibility makes your data understandable and useful for everyone.
That means one in six people has a significant disability and needs accessibility. If we consider temporary disabilities and situational limitations, the number is even higher. One example of temporary disability is a broken arm. A loud environment or bright sunlight are examples of situational limitations.
But accessibility is not only about limitations. It is essential for some, but useful for all. And beyond addressing needs accessibility can be a driving force for innovation . For example, the creation of the first commercial email service connected to the internet was led by Vinton Cerf, known as Father of the Internet, who is hearing-impaired.
Accessibility refers to designing and developing digital products and services that can be used by all individuals, including those with disabilities. It ensures that everyone, regardless of their abilities, can access, navigate, and interact effectively with technology.
The four principles of accessibility that products or services are:
Commonly, disabilities are categorized into the following groups. However, there are various ways for categorization and the list here is not exhaustive. As mentioned earlier, disabilities might also be temporary.
There are not any official guidelines for accessible charts, diagrams and infographics. Therefore, analytics professionals need to rely on basic principles of accessibility.
So, what kind of data visualization is perceivable? At minimum, you must provide alternative texts to make your visualizations accessible to people using screen readers and make your visualizations adaptable, meaning that information can be presented in different ways without losing its meaning.
Then, how to make your data visualizations operable? Desing your visualizations to be navigable with keyboard, so users that cannot use mouse will be able to interact with them. Allow users enough time to read and interact with your visualizations, so that, for example, those with motor or cognitive disabilities can consume them.
You can make data visualizations understandable by using language that everyone can understand regardless of their cognitive abilities. Avoid using complex or ambiguous language.
Robust data visualizations are compatible with different assistive technologies. Test the visualizations across different platforms, browsers, and devices to ensure consistent accessibility.
The European accessibility act is the European Union’s directive , which was created to promote common rules on accessibility. It covers products and services that are most important for persons with disabilities and have the most varying accessibility requirements.
Does this concern you? It might, since the act expands accessibility requirements across the digital world. It applies among other things to:
The European Accessibility Act was adopted by the European Union in April 2019, and Member States have until June 28, 2025, to transpose it into national law.
If the legislation does not apply to you, should you still think about the accessibility of your data visualizations? Absolutely. First, because it is the right thing to do. And second, even though at first creating accessible data visualizations might take more time, it can lead to multiple benefits.
Accessibility can affect consumers’ purchasing decisions. Naturally, a person who needs accessibility can leave your product on the shelf or pass your service if they cannot buy them or get necessary information for the purchasing decision. Google found out in their research that 82% of shoppers want to buy from brands whose values match their own.
Clearly communicated accessibility efforts can widen your potential customer base to people who do not need accessibility but value equality and diversity.
The company’s website might include data visualizations such as infographics and charts about revenue growth, customer satisfaction ratings, social responsibility efforts, employer benefits and work-life balance initiatives. By making these accessible, companies can enhance their employer image. If a company communicates their accessibility efforts clearly, they can attract more diverse talent pool and establish reputation as an inclusive and socially responsible employer.
I came across a good example of how accessibility can drive innovation while doing interviews for my thesis. I asked one of the interviewees how I could design more accessible data visualization and they said that to make the data visualizations fun. I had never thought that data visualizations should be fun, but it really made sense. We all probably have some information which would be easier to consume with a fun and engaging presentation.
In addition to the benefits above, accessibility can provide cost savings in the long run. When products and services are created accessible from the beginning, it enables individuals to participate independently and reduces the need for special services for disabled persons.
Now that you know why accessibility of your data visualizations matters, stay tuned for our next blogpost where we’ll delve deeper into the best practices and tools for accessible data visualization.