Accessibility is the practice of making web content usable for everyone, especially people with disabilities. While the benefits can be profound for individuals, accessibility knowledge can help in other ways such as boosting website traffic, enhancing SEO and helping agencies compete for new business.
For me, as a person who is legally blind, accessibility means a lot, both professionally and personally. I use a screen magnifier – a piece of software which makes things on screen large enough for me to see. This also allows me to change the colour scheme. So for me Connecting Up looks like this:
Here are 10 things that might surprise you about accessibility:
1) People with disability are some of the most active users on the web
People who have a disability rely on technology more. Getting around the real world can be a challenge for someone with impaired sight or movement. The web, with everything from telework to social media, gives people with disability independence.
2) Accessibility covers all disabilities
Almost 20% of the Australian population have some form of disability. This includes people:
- who are blind or have partial vision
- who are Deaf or have hearing loss
- who have impaired mobility or dexterity in their hands
- people with cognitive conditions such as dyslexia
- older people who have impaired senses or dexterity but do not identify as disabled.
Accessible websites can help people with all kinds of disability.
3) Demand is growing
As the population ages, there are more people facing sensory and mobility impairment. This means there’s a growing number of tech-savvy baby boomers who will require accessible websites. Companies and governments world-over are catching on to this and putting strategies in place to future-proof their content through accessibility.
So arming yourself with accessibility knowledge will help you compete in the job market.
4) Not all colours are created equal
With colour blindness affecting 8% of men and 0.5% of women, and users like me changing colour schemes, the colours and combinations of colours you use in design are fundamental to your site reaching the maximum number of people possible.
5) You can caption a video yourself
Online video captioning has become vastly more available in the past few years. Now, YouTube and third party services like Amara make captioning a video at your desk easy.
While YouTube’s automatic captions lack accuracy, they can easily be corrected.
6) You probably already own assistive technology
The software that people who are blind or vision impaired use to access the web is probably already installed on your computer and phone. If you’re reading this on a Mac, iPhone or iPad search for “VoiceOver”. Turning on Apple’s in-built screen reader will give you a blind person’s view of the web. Try out the tutorial and get a feel for how a person interacts with their device eyes-free.
7) Accessibility makes pages easier for Google to index
Screen readers and the Google Spider have access to the same information. The same things that help a screen reader user navigate a page – such as correct heading levels and meaningful link text – help search engines judge what information on the page is important.
Adding alt text to images helps them appear in Google Images and captions help videos appear on YouTube and in blended search results.
8) “Accessible” doesn’t have to mean “boring”
One common misconception is that when you sign-up to making a site accessible it means you have to do away with multimedia and decorative bells and whistles. In reality, good code can keep everyone including the most creative designers happy.
The BBC is a good example of how sites can be media-rich and visually enticing without compromising accessibility.
9) Help is out there
Anyone who googles “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines” is likely to get a shock. The W3C’s standards for what makes an accessible site are a daunting read, even for experts. Thankfully, web accessibility is a fast-growing discipline.
In 2012, we started a university-accredited accessibility certificate. The 6-week online course is designed to bridge the gap between standard ICT training and inclusive design and development.
10) Every user benefits from an accessible site
In the same way that ramps help fast walkers, accessibility helps users get around your site in the most natural way for them. Some people put aside the mouse and use keyboard shortcuts. Some like to watch a video with captions instead of plugging in headphones. At its core, accessibility is about adaptability. Read more…
© ConnectingUp/Scott Hollier