The “Curb cut effect” - why making things accessible helps everyone?

Last few days I have been thinking about the “Curb cut effect” and what a wonderful job it magically does for all people.

What is the “Curb cut effect”?

Let me briefly explain what the “Curb cut effect” is.

A curb cut or dropped kerb is a small ramp built into the curb of a pavement to make it easier for people using pushchairs or wheelchairs to pass from the pavement to the road.

Originally it was meant for disabled people in mind only because their needs were to most obvious for this case. The first curb cuts were installed in 40-ties in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Back then it was a pilot project to aid employment of disabled veterans.

In the course of time, such practice became more and more popular. Today curb cuts are all over the place and they are even required by legislation in most of the countries.

But this time I am not speaking so much about the curbs, but the effect and phenomenon the curb cutting created.

Curb cuts — not only for disabled people

Once the curb cuts were installed in more and more places, an unexpected aspect started to appear and the “effect” become obvious.

Having these ramps on the streets all people realized that it is a benefit not only for disabled people but for everyone to make their activities easier.

Let me name few of them:

  • bicyclists,
  • parents with strollers,
  • elderly people,
  • delivery people,
  • skateboarders (!!!)

People quickly recognized that this innovation makes life better for all.

Lessons for today

As today we spend so much time online and we’re using devices to do our everyday tasks, the accessibility is not anymore only about curbs, ramps, and stairs.

The environment which should be also accessible for all people (no matter of abilities or disabilities) today is much far beyond the pavements.

As a member of society, everyone has deserved accessibility to social networks, news websites, web services, mobile apps and much more.

And here comes the “Curb cut effect”

When digital products and services are designed well for disability, they are designed well for everybody else.

Let me name few examples for websites and apps:

  • If the text has a good color contrast and a readable font size you can read it well even sitting in the bus on a bumpy road.
  • The websites with simple and consistent layouts allow accomplishing tasks fast and without confusion.
  • When the content has an organized structure you can understand it quickly.
  • Action buttons with descriptions
  • The social feed is much more enjoyable if you can pause the video or disable autoplay if necessary.
  • Close the pop-up with escape button.
  • Watch the video with subtitles. Then the video makes sense even at very loud environments (like a football game in the sports bar). Enabling captioning also allows learning a new language.
  • ..and thousands of other examples.

Things designed well for disability, are designed well for everybody else.

Making things accessible everyone benefits.

This is just another reason to care about accessibility creating products and services.

Which accessibility features are your favorites?

I hope these examples let you see how accessibility brings benefit for everyone. Every product and service becomes more usable if you have crafted it with accessibility in mind.

I want to learn what do you think about it?

Are there more accessibility features which improves usability for all people? What are your favorite ones?

Let me know about it in the comments!

The article was published in LinkedIn Pulse here:



Product Management. Customer focus.

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