Fri, 06 Nov 2020 10:19:57 GMT
Shaun Kiggens is director, quality assurance at global marketing agency Firewood, an S4 Capital (SFOR.L) company shares his tips on web design to ensure accessible content.
We are living in a digital world. But not everyone will—or can—consume content or access digital assets in the same way. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) very clearly states that businesses need to do everything possible to ensure that public places are accessible to everyone. In a brick-and-mortar setting, the need for physical access is fairly straightforward, but with technology always changing, ensuring digital access can be a bit trickier.
One very visible example of this is a case brought against Domino’s Pizza because its site wasn’t screen reader accessible. Domino’s argued that while brick-and-mortar compliance is clearly delineated by the ADA, there are no rules that apply to digital platforms, and that businesses need federal guidance before they should be required to comply. Well, the courts disagreed. So where does that leave us?
While there’s no direct guidance from the Department of Justice on how to comply with the ADA, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)—an international community where member organisations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop and maintain web standards—has come to the rescue. W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 provide up-to-date information and steps we can take to ensure that digital creations and digital content are accessible, consumable, and compliant.
Here’s how to get started designing for accessibility.
The first step: understand your users
As web designers, it’s our job to ensure there are no barriers or unnecessary complications preventing accessibility by anyone. So the first step in being able to design for accessibility is to understand your users and the types of disabilities or impairments you’ll need to consider:
And then design with users in mind
Consider this. According to the World Health Organization, roughly 30% of the global population has a visual impairment while 6% experience hearing loss. Yet in 2019 when WebAIM—an organisation many in the industry lean on heavily for information and guidance on accessibility—evaluated one million homepages, only 2% passed WCAG accessibility standards. By far the biggest offenders were low contrast text, missing alt text for images, empty links or buttons, missing form input labels, and missing document languages.
Using the WCAG’s four principles of digital accessibility as guideposts—that content must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust—here are some key (but not all) design factors we focus on to address some of the biggest accessibility hurdles:
Create varying experiences for the same message (for example, a visual experience for those with dyslexia and an audio experience for people with visual impairment) to ensure accessibility for everyone. And take a screen reader (or two) out for a test drive around your site with your eyes closed to see how easy or difficult your pages are to navigate and to create a baseline for improvement.
The road ahead
There's no universal 'right' advice when it comes to accessibility. What’s best for you will depend on your situation and your target audience. But one thing is certain: Design is getting more complex and designers will need enhanced skills to combine enticing design with accessibility. Exciting new technologies on the horizon—such as virtual reality headsets that will allow the visually impaired to see color for the first time—and a drive for inclusion mean we have a unique opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives. And the time to do that is now.
Firewood, Fri, 06 Nov 2020 10:19:57 GMT