British businesses ‘ignoring accessibility in print design’

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We asked UK businesses whether they consider design accessibility issues when creating print – and the results show that more businesses are ignoring accessibility compared to those considering it.

More than half (56%) of businesses fail to take into consideration accessibility needs related to conditions such as dyslexia, colour blindness and early dementia – according to our survey of 622 UK businesses. 

This means over half of all printed marketing materials by British firms fail to recognise the accessibility needs of millions of people in the UK. 

But it’s not all bad news for accessible design. Our research shows that 44% of businesses do consider at least one accessibility issue when creating printed designs. And 60% of firms believe they should take accessibility issues into consideration.

In response to the findings, we have worked with usability experts to create a set of accessible design templates – launched to coincide with Dyslexia Awareness Week 2019 (October 7-13). 

Our managing director Simon Cooper says “more education is needed” to highlight the issue of accessibility in design.

 

The problem with accessibility

Up to 21 million people in the UK currently live with visual, cognitive or learning challenges. This includes people with conditions such as dyslexia, as well as those with basic literacy issues.

Government guidelines exist that outline best practice for creating accessible printed materials. These guidelines make recommendations, such as minimum font size, for designing for people with accessibility issues. Organisations like the British Dyslexia Association also publish guidance on accessibility design.

Yet 56% of businesses fail to take into consideration accessibility issues related to:

  • Dyslexia – an estimated 6.6 million people in the UK suffer from varying severities of dyslexia, according to the NHS.
  • Colour blindness –  3 million people are colour blind in the UK. Visual impairments2 million people are living with visual impairments which affect their day-to-day life.
  • Early dementia – 850,000 people in the UK are currently living with dementia.
  • Related disorders (ADHD/memory issues)
  • Basic literacy issues – an estimated 8.7 million people in the UK have basic literary issues.

Why businesses ignore accessibility

When asked why their business has failed to take into consideration issues around accessible design, respondents offered varied responses – ranging from time constraints to target audience. Nearly half of those asked (46%) said they simply don’t think about it. We’ve listed some further reasons from our findings:

  • 1% said it takes too much time and money
  • 43% said those demographics aren’t our target audience / aren’t a large section of our customer base 
  • 9% said I don’t know anyone in those demographics

Our research found marketing managers to be the most likely to overlook accessibility. Around two-thirds (62%) said they do not consider those with accessibility needs before approving designs.

 

Companies making a difference

While many businesses fail to focus on accessibility, there are many that do. Our survey found two-fifths of businesses (44%) are considering accessibility needs when designing print. 

When asked why they were making these changes, nearly three-quarters of companies said they want to reach as many people as possible with their printed materials such as posters, flyers and leaflets.

 

Top five reasons businesses consider accessibility

  1. They want their materials to be as accessible as possible – 72%
  2. They have friends/family who are affected by these issues – 28%
  3. They believe their target audience are affected by these issues – 28%
  4. They want to be seen as a forward-thinking company – 27%
  5. They are personally affected by one of these issues – 13%

This comes at a time when accessibility design is a topical issue. With people increasingly accessing services online, organisations like the Government Digital Service (GDS) have brought public services online, with a focus on creating content that meets user needs.

 

Which issues do businesses consider?

Among businesses that do consider accessibility issues, it is basic literacy skills that are taken into account most widely (60%). Colour blindness (50%) and Dyslexia (42%) are second and third most frequently considered issues.

Affordability of accessibility: Busting the myth

A small number of survey respondents expressed concern about the costs and time involved in creating accessible design. But among businesses already designing for accessibility, 60% said it costs them no extra money to design in this way. We discovered creation of accessible prints costs less than £100 in 70% of projects.

 

Creating accessible design

Our design templates outline how to create accessible business cards, flyers and posters. We created the templates using government usability guidelines and information from the British Dyslexia Association (BDA). The BDA has awarded us ‘Assured’ status – recognising our design templates as:

  • Effective at supporting those with dyslexia
  • Developed using well-established science
  • Our claims accurately reflect what the user expects

Additionally, they are also listed on the British Dyslexia Association website.

Design your accessible printed materials using our design templates. Learn more here.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Really good piece, thank you. As a slightly more mature (!) designer I find it natural to take into account age related (for instance) impairments when working, and do struggle to understand the thought process behind some of the modern graphic design that I see. I put it down to laziness or lack of proper training mainly, and adapting to ‘mobile’ display requirements doesn’t help either. Your piece highlights the differences that just a little thought can make, especially now that untrained online design styles are creeping into printed graphics and copy-writing styles.

    • Thank you for your comment, Mick. Your words echo a lot of what we feel about accessibility in print. The good news is that it only takes a considerate approach – and very little time and investment – to make substantial improvements. Awareness is key!

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