What Web developers Need to Know About Accessibility
If web accessibility is a unique concept to you, the path onward can seem overwhelming. You could pursue perfection forever by building accessible products for every user you can imagine. That’s not much of a variation from design and development more generally as there’s always room for improvement.
However, when it comes to usability, and that includes accessibility, a product doesn’t need to be perfect to be practical as there can be some little changes which can bring about a significant difference.
Some years back, when we started frontend development, there was an interesting discussion with the title “Aesthetics of the invisible” by the experts. It was all about accessibility in websites, and there was a corresponding blog post which summed it up aptly, “sometimes one single hidden glyph in an HTML markup makes the difference between a good and an outstanding frontend.”
Accessibility is and always has been a polarizing topic. Even some of the top web development companies often had passé comments such as no time for accessibility features, why bother for a few blind persons, or how those borders look ugly.
However, as the word stands for, accessibility is defined as anyone can fully access and interact and similar is the thought for a website as well.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
As we started with this guide, let’s first make it clear that all through the text, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is referred to as WCAG 2.0. It is a set of guidelines and the best practices put together by accessibility experts to inscribe what “accessibility” means methodically.
WCAG is organized around four principles frequently called by the acronym POUR:
- Perceivable – Find out if users can perceive the content? It should be understood that just because something is visible with one sense, for instance, sight, that doesn’t mean that all users can understand it.
- Operable – The developers should find out if the users can manage UI components and navigate the information on the site? For example, some people who suffer from hurdles in using the mouse or touch screen will find it challenging to operate anything that requires a hover interaction.
- Understandable – Find out if the users can understand the content. Do they know the interface and is it compatible enough to avoid distraction?
- Robust – Find out if a wide variety of user agents (browsers) can consume the content. Does it operate with assistive technology?
While WCAG provides a complete summary of what it means for content to be available, it can also be a bit overwhelming. To help alleviate this, the WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind) group has distilled the WCAG guidelines into an easy-to-follow checklist, which is specifically targeted for the web content.
The WebAIM checklist offers a short and crisp summary of what you need to implement, while also associating to the underlying WCAG specifications if you need an elaborated definition.
With this tool in hand, the developers can chart a direction for the accessibility work and be confident that, as long as the project meets the outlined criteria, your users should have a positive experience reaching your content.
What kinds of Impairments do Users Have?
A lot of modern web techniques are still not equipped enough to create sites which don’t operate properly with the tools used by blind people to access the web. However, there is more to accessibility than just with the vision impairments. There are four large buckets of impairments, such as visual, motor, hearing, and cognitive.
The visual impairments can be split into a few categories; the users with no vision, who can use braille, screen reader, or combination of both.
Some users like to use the screen reader or a braille display while others might use text-to-speech technology without the full-screen reader functionality. The ones with low vision can opt for a screen magnifier which zooms in on the part of the screen, or they might use their browser zoom to make all the fonts bigger. They can also use high-contrast titles like an operating system which will have a high-contrast mode, with a high-contrast theme for a website along with high-contrast browser extension.
Users can also have motor impairments or dexterity impairments. This group ranges from those who would prefer not to use a mouse because perhaps they’ve had some RSI or include those who find it painful (for instance, for someone who may be physically paralyzed) and have a limited range of motion for certain parts of their body.
Motor impaired users may use a keyboard, voice control, switch device, or even an eye-tracking device to interact with the device.
What Web Developers can’t Miss
With accessibility or WCAG as the topic, it is too much to cover in one article. Here are some of the primary features of accessible websites outlined below:
- Providing text equivalents to audio as well as visual and content – In recent years, SEO specialists have seized the alt text field, although it was designed for disabled users accessing any website via screen reader. If a screen reader finds Alt text, it will read out the parallel description rather than simply hopping over the picture. Instead of trying to push all your priority keywords in there, developers can use the Alt text field to give a clear, one-sentence summary of the essential points of the image.
- Providing clear navigation – Clear navigation is essential if you want all types of users to find their way around your website. It is particularly important to target the disabled visitors, as many of them won’t be able to access or even reach the site unless there are no visual clues to aid in the navigation.
- People with motor disabilities won’t be able to use a mouse as well
- So, you can use the following as the action points
- Add a table of contents or sitemap
- Ensure that any user can effortlessly tab between all elements on a page
- Identify links with underlined text and contrasting colors.
- Ensure colours in navigation bars are in high contrast.
- Provide an easy way to skip over sections and return to the top of a page.
- Avoid using any tiny links for navigation.
So when we hire web developers, we make sure to get these straight at the beginning:
- What are the responsibilities of a web developer?
- What is W3C, and why is it important?
- How can you optimize and reduce web application load time?
Knowing the history and its significance of web accessibility can most definitely make the whole process seamless and we, from Anonyoo, are committed to making your website accessible for all.
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about the author
WordPress and Accessibility Lover. I realize that a Website or an Application is a constantly developing project and requires long-term assistance to make it perfect. Let me blend my accessibility skill with seamless design and development integration using WordPress to make a perfect website for you. I can be your team or become part of your team or let me help when you have a tricky design or development issue and need support. Whatever it is, I will be there to make your things beautiful, accessible, and functional.