Every one of you should have heard the word ‘Accessibility’ in regards to digital media. As most of you will know, this is a special approach when building a website which is friendly for people with different kind of disabilities.
Let's be fair - how many of us actually look at accessibility as ‘important enough’ to put in the backlog? I regularly speak to software developers and I’ve found that only a few of them mentioned accessibility as a principle they follow and I have read only one job spec, to date, which has specifically mentioned this skill (as desired) to have by developers.
Let's look through 5 reasons why accessibility is so important when it comes to creating websites.
1. Believe it or not - there is a law for it! Simply said - your service must be accessible to everyone who needs it. If it isn’t, you may be in breach of the Equality Act 2010. You need to be familiar with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) and meet level AA of this standard as a minimum.
2. You are growing your audience - yes, people with any kind of disability, temporary or permanent, make up almost half of our society - (many of which will sitting in front of the computer using glasses to read this article - not officially a disability? Well, just saying, I am thankful for a minimum contrast standard!).
3. You do it .... for yourself! Imagine if you lose your mobility in your dominant hand (but let's be kind here - only temporarily) and suddenly you can't use the mouse, only the keyboard with one finger. Use our empathy test below to see how you’d continue to work...
There are many more situations in which your abilities can be limited - for example, after your really long and energy consuming Christmas party at work, you’re a bit worse for wear and realise you need to order a present for your Mother... but the online shop designer didn't think about someone who might need a simple, easily accessible website which requires minimal effort - again, not a disability as such, but a need for quick, easy access through the website.
4. Do it for Google... OK, not for Google - but in order to please Google, get higher in your rankings and improve SEO. Google likes code with clean, tidy structure and easy UX design which fits Accessibility Standards. Proper heading structure, responsive design and mobile friendly websites are top priority. A recent focus text structure has come into play which means your content should be easy to understand and broken down accordingly (use this source to rate your text). You can also check Yoast SEO tool for Wordpress - using exactly the same algorithm to rank your articles (and improve the SEO of your website).
5. Last but not least - do it to feel better, raise awareness about the importance of being an empathetic developer who cares about users and to have a cool, easy to use website!
Do the empathy test below to check how you get on with everyday tasks:
1. Write a list containing several websites you visit every day
2. List a few usual activities you perform on each site
1. Disconnect the mouse and cover the touch panel with a sheet of paper
2. Open one of the listed websites and perform one of the listed activities
1. Imagine being a visually impaired individual using an on-screen reader
2. Try to perform the same tasks again
Test other limitations people might have and try to perform your everyday tasks having those in mind, make the changes and you’ll be well on your way to having an accessible, friendly site in your portfolio!
Thanks Anna Dyderska - former "Accessible Joomla" Project Manager - for being our guest blogger this week
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