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Access all areas

Experienced web developers ensure that accessibility is baked into everything they do because it’s the right thing to do, and the right way to do it. The web is accessible to start with, it was designed to be, and it is our responsibility to ensure we don’t break that.

Seth Warburton

Article by Seth Warburton

Accessibility is misunderstood

Web accessibility is fundamentally misunderstood, even amongst some seasoned web developers, with accessibility requirements often seen as something for disabled people, in particular those who use screen readers or similar assistive technologies. 

The reality of the situation is that such users are a tiny subset of people with web accessibility needs because we all need accessible websites, we all need websites that are designed to work for humans.

“Accessibility isn’t a technological problem to be solved. It’s an essential part of the human condition: we all have different needs and abilities.”

Bruce Lawson
Accessibility Guru

We will all, at some point in our lives, have varying levels of ability. This reduced level of ability, or disability, may be something that permanent, temporary or transient and the degree to which it affects us will vary.

Visual ability

As a spectacle wearer, my eyes were never perfect. As I have gotten older I have discovered, as we all will in due time, that old eyes just don’t work as well as young eyes! I don’t consider myself to be disabled but I most certainly have an impaired visual ability, one that can affect my ability to read on the web. Smaller, lighter, text might look classy, but it is much harder to read!

Without dipping into the figures, a quick glance around you will show that a large percentage of people have some form of visual impairment, I mean glasses are pretty popular, right? Spoiler; they become more popular with age.

I also have deuteranopia, a form of colour vision deficiency (CVD), along with 8% of males and 0.6% of females of Northern European ancestry. Globally, some 300 million people have some form of CVD.

According to the Vision Council of America around 75% of the adult population, worldwide, use glasses or contact lenses to correct deficiencies in their vision meaning that billions of people will benefit from an inclusive, accessible, web that takes account of human (dis)abilities.

Physical ability

Maybe you don’t wear glasses? You are young, your eyes are perfect, so perhaps you’re thinking web accessibility need not concern you? Consider these scenarios that reduce your physical ability to interact with a website:

  • It’s winter so you’re wearing gloves, or you’re not so you’ve got cold hands! Either way, you now have a limited ability to click small buttons or links, or to complete a form online. You need adequately-sized tap targets, sensible spacing and form fields with labels. These are all requirements of an accessible website.
  • You broke your arm. You now have a (temporary) disability that makes it harder to use a mouse or trackpad. On an accessible website you could use a keyboard to navigate between links, or complete and submit a form.
  • You’re outside, using the web on your phone and the sun is shining. You need sufficient colour contrast between text and the background, you need links that look like links. Again, these are fundamental requirements of an accessible website.

We all need an accessible web

It’s likely that we all use make use of assistive technologies (ATs) at some point, though we may never realise it. As an iPhone user, and web developer, I know that my device does a lot of work to make my experience of the web more accessible to me. 

Reader View, as an AT can transform the content of a well-formed web page to an easy-to-read, distraction-free and more accessible version. I love reader view and I prefer to read on websites that provide it, but the technology is underpinned as a fundamental of an accessible web, semantic markup, i.e. using the right tool for the job.

Browsers can interpret HTML elements on a web page analysing the document structure and offer to provide alternate methods to access the content, in exactly the same way a screen reader or braille display would. If a web page uses header tags then these can be identified as headers.

Bad code, bad results, bad experience.

Use something that is visually identical, but without the correct markup? It looks the same but the browser won’t have a clue, neither will Google’s indexing robots, neither will a screen-reader. No reader view, no rich snippets, no voice-over.

At Kind we strive for great User Experience (UX). This means designing for people of all abilities, using the right tools for the job and considering user requirements at every stage. 

Access for all.

Accessibility is a fundamental human right

Over the years I’ve seen many excuses for not implementing accessible websites, typically some variation of the following:

  • Making my site accessible wont benefit my business.
  • Blind people don’t need to access my site, they’re not my target audience.
  • Making my site accessible would be prohibitively expensive.
  • It’s pretty much impossible to make an accessible website look good.

All of these excuses ignore the human aspect of it all; real people with real feelings use websites. However, there is something else to consider, something which no business can afford to ignore, the law. 

Depending on where you live, or where your customers live, your business may be legally required to provide an accessible website. In the US these requirements stem from the Americans with Disabilities Act, in the EU it is the European Accessibility Act, both require accessibility as a fundamental human right and for business those requirements often extend into the online world.

Everyone’s a winner!

There are no downsides to making your site accessible; it is good for all the users of your site, without exception. Time and again research has shown that websites that better serve their users needs perform better, it‘s obvious. Accessible websites sell more things to more people; books, beer, religion; everyone benefits from websites that are easy to understand and easy to use.

“A rising tide lifts all boats.”

John F. Kennedy
35th President of the United States

The W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is an internationally recognised set of recommendations that explain how to make digital services, websites and apps accessible to everyone, including users with impairments. 

WCAG was designed explicitly for the web and is recognised internationally as the gold standard, often being referred to directly in legislation as a minimum requirement. These guidelines are designed to make the web better for everyone.

Where do we start?

I’m glad you asked. At Kind, we are committed to doing good. Being kind is what we do best and web accessibility is an integral to that. 

Whilst there are no turnkey options to creating an accessible website implementing WCAG is a great place to start. However, it is also important to consider user requirements, because accessibility done right is more than just completing a checklist and complying with the law.

At Kind we have years of experience with implementing accessible solutions for projects large and small, so we know how to help.

Generally we first design for accessibility, considering user requirements, form elements, document semantics and interactivity before we write a single line of code. Throughout the build phase of a project we then test every aspect using automated tools and user testing, revising and iterating in response to feedback.

Just some of the things the team at Kind can help you with:

  • Auditing your website to identify accessibility issues
  • Detailing the impacts of any accessibility issues
  • Proposing fixes and highlighting opportunities for improvement
  • Identify accessibility requirements for your business
  • Designing accessible alternative to failing elements
  • Helping with integration of web accessibilty into your workflow
  • Keeping you and your business up to date with legal requirements

It all starts with a conversation, so if you think we might be able to help you let‘s get talking.

Seth Warburton

Seth Warburton is Senior Front-end Developer at Kind