Businesses and organizations are held back from making their websites or apps accessible due to widespread misconceptions. We’ll examine some accessibility myths in more detail.
The power of the web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect – Tim Berners-Lee, Inventor of the internet
1. “Accessibility only benefits those with disabilities…”
Everyone benefits from accessibility.
Whether or not you have a disability, you are likely to have meet someone with a temporary impairment of some sort and have benefited from features put in place to assist them. The impairment can be physical, mental, or technological in nature, and can alter your ability to browse the internet or consume content normally.
Transcripts, subtitles, and closed captioning, for example, are traditionally used by those with hearing impairments to help them access video and audio content; however, in many cases, these features can also be helpful to those with normal hearing.
Imagine that someone is in a public place and wants to check out audio or video content without causing a disturbance. It may be a waiting room at a doctor’s office or a gym. Hearing impairment affects this individual, though not permanently or physically, but they experience the limitations all hearing-impaired people face every day.
We can even think of accessibility as an investment in ourselves. Nothing is certain in life, but everyone ages. When we reach old age, we begin to see, hear, and move less well. Being accessible now or later is beneficial to everyone.
2. “Accessible websites put limitations on design and development…”
Due to the limitations of designers and developers in the early days of the internet, many websites are not accessible. Often, text-only websites were considered the best way to achieve accessibility due to technological limitations.
In today’s world, websites can be content-rich, interactive, beautiful, and highly accessible. It is frequently misunderstood that building accessible websites is a very different process from building regular websites. The process is virtually the same, with a little more care and attention to detail.
“Don’t think of the constraints of a system or the requirements you have to work with as limitations; think of them as a foundation for building a creative design”
This sort of thinking needs to be put into practice. Designing the phone so that it is safer and easier to use while driving (legally, of course) is an easy example I love to use. Understanding how blind or low vision people use their phones can provide a good foundation for identifying possible solutions.
By reframing the limitations of building for blind or low vision users into an opportunity, we are able to explore solutions that benefit everyone.
Great, but where do I start?
Here’s a short checklist you can use to perform an accessibility audit on your own website or a website you frequently visit. It is in no way comprehensive, but hopefully it will give you a sense of the type of considerations we must take when designing an accessible digital experiences for beginners.
Be sure to use alt descriptions for any images on your website (also known as alt text, alt attributes, or alt tags). These are attributes that specify descriptive text if an image cannot be viewed by the user. If an image is purely decorative (a border or pattern) – the alt text should be left blank or null. You should avoid including images of text unless it is part of a logo or brand name. A long description should be written using the Longdesc (Long Description) attribute. Examples would be complex charts and graphs.
Blind and low vision people may use a screen reader to listen to alt text to hear what the image represents.
Audio & Video
Videos and audio content should have captions, subtitles, or transcripts. For non-personal content, i.e. content from outside the company’s control, this can be hard to enforce. Make sure your website has an option to play and pause auto-played audio content.
A caption, subtitle, or transcript is used by hearing-impaired people to read what is being said. For people with low vision or blindness, automatic sound playing without a pause or play button can make navigating your website difficult.
To ensure that your text can be scaled effectively, specify your text in em units. The contrast between the text and the background should be adequate so that the text is easily visible. Your website should define acronyms and initialisms with either abbr (abbreviation) or title attributes.
The information may have to be enlarged for users with low vision. When there are sufficient vowels and consonants, screen readers will attempt to pronounce initialisms and acronyms; otherwise, they will spell out the letters. NASA would be pronounced as a word by a screen reader, SQL is pronounced as “Sequel”, even though some people pronounce it as S.Q.L, and NSF as N.S.F.
Putting it into Practice
Making these considerations a part of accessible design is a great starting point. With education, you’re preparing your team to create a web that is equally accessible.
We found areas where our own website could be improved to make it more accessible after conducting a review. In certain cases, we found that our images lacked alternative descriptions, and some of our more complex images (graphs) lacked long descriptions. This has now been corrected.
Using an accessibility checker such as siteimprove.com is a quick and easy way to determine whether your website meets accessibility guidelines. By using accessibility checkers, you can find potential issues much faster, so even if you do not completely understand the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, you have a clear place to start addressing accessibility issues on your website.
Accessible digital experiences for beginners. We want everyone who visits Stich’s website to share the same experience.
What needs to happen to make a website accessible?
Our accessibility specialist audited Stich’s website several times to ensure it was compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. These guidelines and recommendations are aimed at improving web content accessibility on mobile and desktop devices. The guidelines address a range of disabilities including mobility, cognitive, hearing, and vision.
What are examples of changes made to meet WCAG 2.1?
Stich’s work is distinguished by its aesthetic qualities. The first time our website was audited, we discovered that some of its design choices weren’t accessible.
The following things had to be changed:
- The initial use of green and red to indicate success and error made things difficult for colour-blind people
- Several navigation elements were not friendly for people using screen readers to access the website
- The design of our contact submission form originally had an effect that minimised the name of the field as you were typing. We learned this was a poor experience for people with cognitive impairments
We made extra adjustments based on suggestions from our digital accessibility experts. We are committed to continuous improvement, so our website will always be a work in progress. Please feel free to contact us via e-mail or the form on our contact page if you have feedback about how we can further improve accessibility.
Interested in accessible digital experiences for beginners – Contact Stich Creative if you’d like to find out more.