If you design or develop websites for a living, more than likely you’ve heard about the importance of web sites which are accessible and usable for everyone. So, what’s new and newsworthy today and why should you care?
Accessibility has a far reach
In a nutshell, today’s Web Accessibility and Usability best practices reach beyond the blind, the disabled and the hearing impaired to include today’s busy power users and a multitude of mobile devices. People want access to information. The web is the de facto “go to” location these days. This is why it is so important to make certain everyone has equal access.
Why does that matter? Accessibility is a civil right.
- Monetization – if your site is not accessible, you may face a number of issues (from complaints to lawsuits). It is so much easier to incorporate accessibility into your site development process.
- Differentiation – accessibility helps in other aspects (including helping with search engine rank and overall user experience).
Web Accessibility Summit findings
To better understand the value of what this means to today’s Web professionals, I participated in the Environment for Humans Web Accessibility Summit in early September, 2016. Here are some of the key take-aways:
- Accessibility helps the overall user experience for many who do not have a disability (consider those working in bright sunlight/ experiencing screen glare).
- It takes a team (know what aspects of accessibility you are good at and where you need help – and it is sometimes important to know when you need to ask for help).
- Individual experiences vary significantly and the way we perceive a site often has to do with the context while we experience said site (for example, consider your willingness to tolerate page loading delays while you are trying to re-book a flight because you are at the airport and yours was just cancelled).
- Some groups are working very hard to develop new technologies to assist those with disabilities.
For project managers
If you are reading this (and manage projects), it is important to champion accessibility because it improves the overall user experience at your site. One should not think of accessibility in terms of edge cases; think in terms of those who have temporary issues (whether holding an infant and trying to look up information about your product or suffering some motor impairment due to a stroke). As a project manager, you may need help developing a business case for accessibility. There are sites which can help (such as http://www.w3.org/WAI/bcase/Overview.html).
For accessibility testing
If you are testing for accessibility, it is important to include screen captures in your report. Identify the exact problem (including the snippet of code). Also provide examples of how this problem may be repaired. Keep in mind that when multiple people report a problem, they will likely word it differently. This is why screen captures are important to include. It may also be helpful to include video of you interacting with the site using tools like VoiceOver (Mac), NVDA (Windows) or ChromeVox (for Chrome browser and ChromeOS).
Smart Charts Project
During the Summit, I learned about the Smart Charts project (for example, http://describler.com/#intro is a prototype data visualizer) from Doug Schepers. Surprisingly, if you are using a screen reader, you can gain more information from a chart than is presented visually. The above site should be examined visually and with a screen reader to experience the difference.
There are many resources which one can use to test for accessibility and to better understand how to code properly. At a minimum, you should be aware of the ADA site – https://www.ada.gov/access-technology/. We are developing a list of accessibility resources which will be available via our SchoolOfWeb.org site for our members. A couple of short courses at our SchoolOfWeb.org site will soon be offered covering the fundamentals of web accessibility.
We encourage you to strive to make your sites accessible, not just for legal reasons, but because it is the right thing to do.
Community Evangelist and Executive Director