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Feature image How Maybelline Is Changing the Makeup Game with Accessibility

I’ve never been great at applying makeup. Maybe it’s because I’m not particularly artistic, but there has never been a time in my life when I have been capable of achieving the look I want. Losing a lot of my vision at 22 years old only made it worse.

Everyone jokes about how hard it is to apply eyeliner, and it really is. Drawing perfect little lines on my scrunched eyelids just isn’t a simple feat. Combine that with the fact that I can’t see anything close-up using my right eye, and I’m pretty lost. My standard method of liner application is basically drawing a huge black line across the lid, and paring it down using makeup remover. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I almost always leave my makeup mirror frustrated and concerned that I look ridiculous.

There’s an App for That!

When I read the article, L’Oréal Brazil wants to help visually impaired women use its products through new Audio MakeUp Project, I was glad someone finally got it. There are so many little things that people lose when one of their senses gets dulled or ripped from them. Seem frivolous? It’s not.

There were years when I was not allowed to wear makeup because it was banned by my doctors. This time period was frustrating and led to me buying an obscene amount of sunglasses. They did double-duty, hiding my eyes and blocking the painful light from my newly light sensitive eyes. Even though I had a decent disguise, I hated not being able to wear anything. Despite my struggles with applying makeup properly, I love it.

More importantly, to me the makeup ban meant facing the world without any shield. Yes, it’s superficial, but it was a really hard thing to do. The surgeries left me with a lot of very visible changes to my eyes and my entire face. Despite my lack of vision, I knew that my face had changed. My surgeries required the doctor to cut off all of my eyelashes, resulted in my eyes decreasing in size (especially the right one), caused my right eye to roll to the side, and created a black hole in part of my right iris. Not to mention the constant drops and prodding made both eyes red and watery. I always felt like a mess, and I wanted makeup because it felt like the only way to distract from the crazy mess my eyes had become. While I’m extremely thankful that the surgeries saved as much of my sight as they did, they left me feeling vulnerable and dare I say it, ugly.

It’s the Little Things

I’m allowed to wear makeup now, but I still haven’t gotten the hang of applying it. That’s where the makeup site/app comes in. Having confidence is partly about looking the way that makes you feel your best, and I prefer to wear makeup. The spokesperson for the site echoes my feeling on the matter, “’When a woman wears makeup, she feels beautiful and confident. In that perspective, make up is extremely important also for those who can’t see. Audio MakeUp is an empowering tool for women,’ added Débora Maciqueira, L’Óreal marketing group manager.”[1] However, I would change that to ‘when a person wears makeup,’ because makeup is an important part of lots of people’s lives.

Beyond the obvious fact that this site will help me boost my makeup skills, I consider it to be a win for the disabled community, and for the digital accessibility community. When it’s painfully obvious that the world isn’t built for you, it makes life tough. Sometimes I get sick of the fact that my visual impairment is so frequently shoved back at me by the world as if to say, “It’s your issue, you deal with it.” Instead, Maybelline made my visual impairment their issue. They went to bat for me, and they decided to make my day easier. I have been a customer for years, but you bet the next time I go to the store to buy makeup I’ll be heading to their section before I go anywhere else.

It’s About Inclusion

Being shocked that a huge brand made an inclusive website shouldn’t be the norm. I was so surprised to see the topic that my first thought was that I had read the headline wrong. An entire makeup site that I can actually use? Incredible!

The campaign also challenged women to do their makeup in the dark to show how it feels to be that lost. Think you know your face? Put on lipstick totally in the dark while looking at a mirror. It’s a huge challenge. Maybelline is working toward a level of inclusion I hope will become a trend and then eventually just a part of life.

Yeah, the fact that a makeup brand is creating accessible sites is awesome, but I understand you might need more of a reason to make your site accessible than the feel-good factor. Well, my immediate reaction to the Maybelline site says it all. Without thinking, I was automatically inclined to use their brand because they cared about including me. Creating a website that everyone can easily access and interact with will open you up to more users, which could translate to an increase in sales (if your site does that sort of thing).

Making simple modifications like adding a button to enlarge the text on your site can create a significant boost in how your site is perceived by users. The Maybelline site does it, and you can too by installing the UserWay widget. Even if a user isn’t disabled, seeing that you have taken accessibility into account can give your brand a better public face. Caring about your users goes a long way, so follow Maybelline’s example and start making your website more inclusive now.

Have you come across any websites or apps that help you in your everyday life? Any brands that do an awesome job at including universal design or disabled access? Share them below, we need to celebrate the efforts of the people who are getting it right!