Inclusion in Tech: Web Accessibility

Inclusion in Tech: Web Accessibility

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”- Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

The internet is a tool that can work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, location, or ability. The impact of disability is changed online because using online technology can remove barriers to communication and interaction that many people face in the physical world. When websites and apps are built with accessibility in mind, they can increase access for all.

What is web accessibility?

The goal of accessibility online is to make websites usable by as many people as possible, while giving everyone an optimal experience. When websites and web tools are properly designed and developed, people with disabilities can use them. However, many sites are developed without consideration for the accessibility barriers that make them difficult or impossible for some people to use.

Why accessibility?

There are many benefits of prioritizing web accessibility, the impact is widespread and helps not only those with disabilities but anyone in different circumstances than what may be considered the norm by designers and developers. As life takes place increasingly online, everyone should have access to all websites and apps.  When designers and developers prioritize accessibility they promote a caring morality to the public and provide a social service through their work. In addition, their work will be able to reach an even greater audience than if the website did not include these features. Finally, semantic HTML has been proven to improve search engine optimization so the benefits extend even beyond increased access.

The Four Principles

The industry standard for web accessibility revolves around four principles, websites and apps should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. The acronym POUR makes it easy to remember these four concepts.

1. Perceivable-This is most basic basic principle and states that users need to be able to process information in order for it to be accessible.

2. Operable- All users need to people able to navigate the content. People with disabilities should be able to use websites and applications with a variety of tools.

3. Understandable- Beyond perceiving and operating content, all users also must be able to understand it. Understandable websites use clear, concise language and offer functionality that is easy to comprehend.

4. Robust- Users should have the power to pick their own mix of technologies. Within limits, websites should work well-enough across platforms, browsers, and devices to account for personal choice and user need.

Guidelines and Suggestions

Text

There are many ways in which the text on a site can be more accessible. A primary goal of accessible text is optimal readability. This means making color and typography choices that are easily perceivable. Some of the most accessible fonts are Times New Roman, Verdana, Arial, Tahoma, Helvetica, and Calibri. In addition, color contrast might look fine to the eye, but is not accessible. In order to check the contrast, the Chrome Canary Color Contrast Checker can provide an analysis of your site to ensure that the contrast makes the text readable. Finally, captioning images with descriptive text can help vision impaired users. ARIA labels can also help screen readers identify otherwise unlabeled HTML text. For example, if an image of a hamburger has no caption, but contains an ARIA label that says hamburger, a screen reader will be able to read that so the user can still perceive that is there.

Audio

In addition, websites should provide audio for those who can not see. This does not mean you have to create audio for everything on your website, but all text should be consumable by screen readers and other assistive technologies.

Navigation and Customization

In order to make websites and apps more accessible, users should be able to traverse the page using only their keyboard, using the tabindex attribute can help you to set this up on your website. In addition, using semantic HTML creates a variety of accessibility benefits, for example, it gives additional context to screen readers and allows for keyboard-only navigation. Allowing users to customize a page also increases accessibility. For example, users should have the ability to increase the text size on a page. Additionally, users should be able to turn off Javascript or CSS styling without losing the functionality of the website.

Tools

If you are not used to doing so, it can seem overwhelming to begin creating websites or apps with accessibility in mind, even with the best intentions you may not know how to make changes that will create a positive impact. Luckily, there are many great tools available to help make these changes easier. One of these is WAVE, the web accessibility evaluation tool, which helps you scan website pages and identify accessibility problems. Another option is the Axe Chrome Extension which offers a similar evaluation of websites through Google Chrome. Finally, the Bureau of Internet Accessibility offers a free WCAG 2.0 A/AA compliance summary of your website. This tool assesses your app based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines created by the Web Accessibility Initiative.

Conclusion

Hopefully this article has encouraged you to think more about web accessibility and provided a few ways to help you get started. If you are interested in reading even more information, the World Wide Web Consortium website is a great resource. Need help making your website or application more accessible? Contact us today, we would love to work together to create a site that functional for all!