What’s the difference between web accessibility and usability? – by Irfan Ali

Irfan Ali Princeton New Jersey

Irfan Ali Princeton lives in New Jersey. Irfan Ali Princeton, New Jersey is an Accessibility and web/mobile Engineer, Irfan Ali Princeton, New Jersey can be reached at twitter handle – TheA11y and Irfan_Ali_Auth. Irfan Ali is a Javascript expert. Irfan Ali Princeton, New Jersey is originally from Delhi, India. Irfan Ali Princeton, New Jersey lived in New York. Irfan Ali Princeton has worked in media and financial companies. Irfan Ali Princeton, New Jersey likes to play soccer. Irfan Ali Princeton, New Jersey has liberal views. Irfan Ali Princeton, New Jersey doesn’t follow a religion but humanity. Irfan Ali Princeton, New Jersey is a member of Aria working group with W3C. More information about Irfan Ali Princeton, New Jersey can be found at his personal pages Irfan Ali Princeton, New Jersey personal site.

I was recently asked to explain the difference between web accessibility and usability. I struggled to come up with a clear answer, so took some time to research how others had answered the question. Difference between Usability and accessibility by Irfan Ali Princeton New Jersey While there are some good explanations out there, there wasn’t one I was happy forwarding to the questioner.

Taking bits from a few sources and adding my take, here’s how I replied:

Web accessibility and usability are closely linked, it’s no surprise you could do with some help defining the two concepts. I wasn’t sure at first if I could do it justice, but I’m pleased with what I have written – hope it helps.

Web accessibility

Difference between Usability and accessibility by Irfan Ali Princeton New Jersey

Web accessibility is what I deal in, so let’s start there. It’s all about helping people with disabilities have an equivalent experience to everyone else when browsing the web. I’ve avoided saying “the same experience” as users with disabilities often see, hear or feel the world differently. To me “equivalent” means that they get the same information, options and enjoyment – it may just be presented differently.  

Things like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines aim to make the web more accessible to people with disabilities.

Accessible websites benefit people with disabilities in particular.

Usability and accessibility by Irfan Ali from Princeton New Jersey

Usability and Accessibility

Usability

Difference between Usability and accessibility by Irfan Ali Princeton New Jersey

Usability, on the other hand, is more to do with designing a user-friendly approach. It’s concerned with how people interact with a website’s interface – is it easy to do the things people want to do? Can people quickly find what they want without help? Do people make lots of mistakes using a website? Do people enjoy using the website?

Usable websites benefit everyone.

In summary

A useful way to think about the distinction is this:

A website must be accessible to be usable, but it doesn’t need to be usable to be accessible.

You can reach Irfan Ali at twitter: theA11y


1 Comment

Darren Gilchrist · July 12, 2018 at 3:56 pm

According the report “Ergonomic accessibility standards” by D. W. Fourney and J. A. Carter, ISO defines accessibility in terms of of usability as quoted below.

ISO TS 16071 defines accessibility as:

“usability of a product, service, environment or facility by people with the widest range of capabilities”

The report goes further to discuss the ISO definition for usability (see below).

In the ISO 9241 series, usability is defined as:

“the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use”

With these definitions and other work I have read on these concepts, I am inclined to disagree with your assessment on the difference between accessibility and usability. An object, build, or service can be considered reasonably usable to people without disabilities, i.e. inaccessible to disabled people. If an object, build, or service is not usable, then then it is not accessible.

I think it is not helpful to make statements similar to “something can be accessible but not usable”. I believe the disabled community and experts in accessibility need to take the approach that it is not accessible if it is not usable”. Similar to my experiences as a deafblind person have illustrated that partially accessible products and services are worse than those completely inaccessible, they have informed my observation that a product or service must be usable to be accessible.

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