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Designing for Inclusivity: Addressing Accessibility Challenges for People with Disabilities in India

The need for accessibility

Across the world, there have been long and sustained efforts to address the needs of people with disabilities. The active involvement of international organizations, governments, and communities has led to several successful initiatives. Their primary objective was to ensure physical access to public spaces, workplaces, and transportation. Today, digital gadgets and the internet have become the preferred means of communication, information, and entertainment, making accessibility in digital interactions a compelling need.

There are several reasons why accessibility is a critical consideration in UX design:

  • According to the UN, about 1 billion people live with some form of disability. In India, the figure is estimated to be about 270 million, according to the census undertaken in 2011 — the figure is likely to be much higher today. For businesses, ignoring such a large user base is a bad idea.
  • Several countries have introduced laws that address the specific needs of disabled people. In these markets, products or services that don’t comply with accessibility mandates attract steep penalties and legal troubles.
  • When a product is made more accessible for people with disabilities, it naturally becomes much simpler for normal users as well. Thus, UI/UX design studios must factor in accessibility considerations to improve the product’s overall usability.

Guidelines and requirements

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), adopted in 2006, laid down broad principles for empowering people affected by disabilities. These included their right to individual autonomy, independent choices, and equal opportunity and accessibility. As a signatory to this convention, India enacted the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act in 2016, following it up with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rules in 2017. These encompass the statutory provisions that organizations, both private and public, must adhere to and the penalties for non-compliance.

As a nationwide program, the Indian government launched the Accessible India campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) on the International Day of Disabilities in 2015. It enables stakeholders to participate in universal accessibility initiatives, focusing on three aspects: the Build Environment, Transportation, and ICT Ecosystem. While the first two are concerned with physical access and mobility, the third pertains to making information accessible for people with disabilities. A detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this blog, but the critical requirements related to digital devices are:

  • Content in audio and electronic form must be accessible.
  • Electronic devices and consumer goods meant for everyday use must comply with universal design principles.

The Bureau of Indian Standards encoded the requirements as IS 17802. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rules was amended in 2023, mandating websites, apps, devices, and other ICT products to comply with these standards.

Designing for the Indian user

From a product designer’s perspective, India is a unique and demanding market. The country is home to vastly diverse audiences. The numerous languages, cultural attributes, and regional traditions make it hard to zero in on a common design that’ll appeal to all. Differences in education and income levels add another layer of complexity. When the objective is to ensure accessibility, designing for an Indian user becomes even more challenging than designing for a user elsewhere. To be successful, UI/UX design agencies in India must acquire the skillsets required to fulfill the varied expectations of millions of users.

 The design process

A well-defined process underpins the success of top-notch user experience design companies. While this is true of every project, product developers must tweak the strategy further while striving for universal accessibility. The best UI/UX design companies in the industry factor in accessibility needs early at the ideation stage and ensure they are addressed at every step through the design cycle.

  • User research: Every project starts with an attempt to understand target users and their expectations. Designers must invest considerable time and effort in research to deliver the required functionality. Qualitative and quantitative research methods help UI/UX design studios judge how persons with disabilities will interact with the user interface. The key question is whether a user’s impairment can potentially limit their experience.
  • UX audit: It’s immensely beneficial to get the current design evaluated for accessibility. An objective assessment by a UX audit agency helps designers identify the weak spots that pose usability challenges. This exercise offers a realistic estimate of how closely the design meets the objectives.
  • Testing: With a systematic testing plan, designers can verify if the product meets all the accessibility requirements. Besides manual tests carried out by a representative group of users, UI/UX design companies can deploy automated tools that include accessibility-specific checks.

Design tips

A study of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is a great place to start. Originally published for websites, they have continuously been updated to include all digital user interactions, becoming the gold standard for UX design. The scientifically developed recommendations have inspired modern design frameworks such as Google’s Material Design and Apple’s Human Interface.

WCAG lays down four fundamental principles:

  • Perceivable: It must be possible for users to perceive all the elements presented.
  • Operable: The functionality must be available to all users without any limitations.
  • Understandable: The design must be intuitive with easy-to-understand controls.
  • Robust: The design must offer the same experience across different hardware and software platforms.

When applied to real-world projects, these principles translate into sound UX design practices. UI/UX design companies in India must internalize these ideas to create noteworthy, appealing, and accessible products.

  • Assistive technologies: The design must support a variety of hardware or software devices such as keyboards, trackballs, screen readers, braille displays, screen magnifiers, and voice input options.
  • The visual hierarchy of the objects must facilitate easy, purposeful navigation. Important information and elements must be prominently displayed, and related items must be placed together.
  • The touch and pointer targets, such as buttons and menu icons, must be large enough to support users with visual impairments or poor hand-eye coordination. The elements must have sufficient space between them as well.
  • The textual content, whether it’s the main copy, help documentation, alt text, or captions, must be simple and concise.
  • Choosing the correct font is critical, and it’s better to prioritize readability over style. This is particularly important while implementing vernacular or multi-lingual interfaces, which require finer adjustments for language-specific typographical variations.
  • To ensure readability, the background, text, and buttons must use appropriate colors and contrast levels.
  • When people with low vision use larger font sizes or zoom the display, the content should remain visible, and the actionable objects must still be available.

About Ambian

Looking for design ideas that comprehensively fulfill accessibility requirements? Talk to us. Ambian Studio is among the top UI/UX design companies in India. Our team is driven by a passion for excellence. We love building new-age user experience strategies for businesses keen to benefit from futuristic thinking. With our customer-focused approach, agility, and positive attitude, we fulfill the exacting needs of global organizations. Our services span the entire UX spectrum, addressing the unique challenges and expectations of startups, mid-size companies, and enterprises.

Author avatar
Mathuram N, Lead UX Strategist, Ambian