Breaking down the barriers – Accessibility and assistive technology

I have successfully completed the Week 2 of the Foundations of User Experience (UX) Design course by Google on the Coursera platform. The main takeaway from this week is the importance of having accessibility and assistive technology in mind when designing products and user experiences.


Designing with accessibility in mind means that we are designing products, apps, websites, etc. so that people with different abilities or disabilities can also perceive, understand, navigate, interact with and contribute to the web.

Google Features That Increase Accessibility

It’s a common misconception that accessible design is intended only for the use of people with some type of disability. On contrary, accessibility is universal, an inclusive design practice that helps the user base at large by removing permanent, temporary, or situational barriers for everyone.

Assistive technology

Assistive technology, or AT for short, is any product, piece of equipment, and/or system that enhances learning, working, or daily living for individuals with disabilities.

In the course so far we touched down on the most commonly used assistive technology for desktop or mobile users:

Color modification

Color modification is a screen option that lets you change the way colors on your device interface look. It makes interfaces easier to see for people who have low vision and is a great way to make an app easier on the eyes. This feature is also often used in the dark or midday when there is glare from intense light.

Voice control and switch devices

Both voice control and switch devices provide a great alternative to the use of a keyboard or a mouse. Voice control allows users to navigate and interact with the buttons and screens on their devices using only their voice. As such, it is of immense help to people with no or limited dexterity and mobility. An example of a switch device is a Braille device used by people who are deafblind to translate the on-screen text into braille so they can feel the content that’s being presented. It’s one of the only ways they can access digital content, as they may not be able to hear or see it.

Screen readers

A screen reader is a software that reads what’s on your computer screen aloud. It is one of the most common assistive technologies for people with limited vision. When you use a screen reader, it reads everything aloud to you, including any interactive elements, non-visible text such as button names, and alternative text for images.

Alternative text

Alternative text is an additional descriptor for images, providing context for what it depicts. It’s designed to provide useful information for everyone, whether or not they’re able to see the image. It helps the visually impaired understand the context of an image and provides content for users with low bandwidth to keep track of what’s unfolding on the page.

The main takeaway

The first time I came across the term accessibility and its importance was in the Web Design for Everybody: Basics of Web Development & Coding Specialization course The Google UX design course further expanded my knowledge and it will definitely change the way how I design websites from now on. I love how this course makes me think deeper than the surface level. Elise, accessibility and inclusion lead for corporate engineering, made me truly realize the importance of accessibility and assistive technology in UX design in one of the course videos:

..there’s value in difference, in the difference that we find within human beings. Difference helps us think creatively and helps us see gaps in our products. Often when we look into those gaps and the insights that we gain from looking at people who experience the world differently, we build better products that are more adaptable, that are longer-lasting, and more innovative.

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