- 1 The Basics
- 2 Why Accessibility
- 3 Thing the first: You need to work with the knowledge of your own stereotypes
- 4 Thing the second: Recognize that you will not be able bodied your whole life
- 5 Standards and Guidelines
- 6 Getting it done
- 7 Testing tools
- 8 Accessibility & Mobile Design
- 9 Accessibility & Game Design
- 10 anne’s Accessibility talks
- 11 More resources
- 12 Related topics
- 13 Accessible PDF files
- 14 Additional Resources
Accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people who experience disabilities. The concept of accessible design and practice of accessible development ensures both "direct access" (i.e. unassisted) and "indirect access" meaning compatibility with a person's assistive technology (for example, computer screen readers). – Wikipedia
Accessibility law applies specifically to those with disabilities, whether those disabilities are physical or cognitive. These include:
- Hearing difficulty and d/Deafness
- Low vision and blindness
- Category: Neurological and Cognitive Issues
- Motor Issues
Many people who are aging experience some or all of the above disabilities, so you might also want to check out Aging.
Accessibility is the act of designing for an audience that includes people who have disabilities, and may (or may not) be using additional software or hardware to complete their goals. Accessibility is a way of thinking about design and development. Dylan Barrell explains it in his article "What is accessibility?" in terms of a series of traits.
- Accessibility is empathy for your users.
- Accessibility is usability in the things you build.
- Accessibility is compliance with best practices, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel (or make your user do the same).
- Accessibility is making the experience better for all users, with an emphasis on the users at the edge of the experience.
- And Accessibility is practical - not idealistic - in its pursuit of a better experience.
(There's a great discussion of how a map can be accessible not by aligning with the letter of accessibility requirements, but by reassessing what the core user need actually is and building it instead or in addition to the map, in the "What is accessibility?" article, by the way.)
Paul Boag raises many of the same points in his article Accessibility is not what you think, putting the emphasis on the fact that accessible solutions aren't strictly for the profoundly disabled edge cases. Yes, they are covered by good accessibility solutions, but good accessibility solutions benefit everyone. Accessibility is not a few things, though you'll meet people who think that it is. It is not a checklist of things to do so that your software passes a compliance test, a list of things to do so you don't get sued, or a pain in your ass. (Or rather, if it's a pain in your ass, so is User Experience and everything else that's going to make your product successful, so deal.)
Accessibility is not a "nice thing to do", as Karin Hitselberger explains in her article of the same name. It's the law. And it's the law because Karin and you and I all share the same rights to life and dignity and safety and security. It's not kindness, and it's not charity. It's the baseline.
I've written a few things about Accessibility over the years, which can be boiled down to these two points:
Thing the first: You need to work with the knowledge of your own stereotypes
Many (many many) people in tech I talk to who are unfamiliar with Accessibility invoke internal stereotypes about disabled people. This is called ableism, and like sexism or racism, it means that -- consciously or unconsciously -- a person thinks of another person as "lesser" or "other".
In my article, "Reframing Accessibility for the Web" I try to make the reader aware that ableism exists, and that it interferes with our support of accessible design by denigrating the value of the people accessible design serves. In that article I suggest that if you can't justify writing accessible software as an audience need, then you should reframe it as a technology need -- you need your software to run on these pieces of hardware (keyboard, mouse, sip-and-puff, screen reader, etc.) regardless of what you think of your users.
Would I prefer that everyone tear up their internal stereotypes and build accessible software because everyone needs it? Hells to the yes I would. But I've walked into too many executive meetings where the first thing I was told about Accessibility is "it has to have a business value, it can't just be the right thing to do", so - yay capitalism? Besides, half the time we don't even know what our internal stereotypes are until someone points them out to us. The best way to uncover them is to expose ourselves to different ways of thinking, which happens really fast when we try to use input devices we've never used before. We'll never be substitutes for our disabled users, but we might at least see some of the stupider design mistakes we've made if we at least try to test our software on multiple devices before shipping.
Thing the second: Recognize that you will not be able bodied your whole life
Tech still tends to be a relatively young person's career, although I haven't figure out yet whether that's because it kills us faster or we get tired of it or we get rich and retire to the Caribbean. (I'm really hoping it's the third one.)
Having been a young person once and a middle-aged person now, I can confidently say that we humans do not know what it's like to lose a fingertip until we're looking at it on the kitchen counter. We can empathize, cringe, even get nauseous at the thought, but only those of us who have lost the tip of a finger (or toe, I'll spot you a toe) can nod and go "Yup, and here's what that experience is like."
On the other hand, all of us, experienced or no, can imagine and empathize with someone who's lost the tip of a finger. Giant bandage, itchy healing, difficulty typing, doors are a bit of a pain.... That's important, especially in light of Thing The First and our internalized stereotypes. When we take a group of people and say "I'm not one of them" or "I don't know what it's like to be one of them" it's easy to say "They're not important; I'm building for people like me."
But who are the people like you? When we say "They have an accessibility issue, in that they can only use a keyboard," do you picture someone who has a severe and permanent disability that prevents them from using a mouse, or do you picture a fingertip wrapped in gauze two inches thick?
The point of An Alphabet of Accessibility Issues is that anyone at any time for any number of reasons might find themselves in need of your accessible product. They might be permanently disabled, they might be temporarily disabled, they might just be distracted or have their hands full. They might be older, they might be younger, they might be exactly like you. Because we cannot predict who our users really are -- and for that matter we cannot predict our own health from one day to the next -- we have to build for everyone.
Standards and Guidelines
The official standard is the WCAG 2.0 standard by the W3C.
For resources related to the standard, see Category: WCAG Guidelines.
Getting it done
Accessibility 101 - The things you need to know to get started
- The Web Accessibility Basics by Marco's Accessibility Blog
- Getting Started with Web Accessibility by Monika Piotrowicz at The Pastry Box.
- Dos and don'ts on designing for accessibility by Karwai Pun on Gov.UK. Includes posters for designing for people on the autism spectrum, people using screen readers, people with low vision, people with physical or motor disabilities, [Deafness | people who are deaf or hard of hearing]], and people with dyslexia.
- Designing for Inclusivity: How and Why to Get Started by Allison Shaw at the Invision Design Blog
Common Accessibility Mistakes and How To Avoid Them by Ben Robertson outlines four of his own principles for developing accessible websites.
- Web Design is more than graphic design
- Be ASAP: As Semantic As Possible
- Websites should look good naked
- Talk to your computer (Use ARIA attributes)
It also outlines common accessibility mistakes:
- Missing page titles
- Poor heading structure
- Link text should tell where or what a user is clicking on
- Inputs missing a <label>
- CSS Grid / Flexbox: visual reordering sets a mismatch between logical ordering and visual ordering
- Missing or poor alt attributes for images
- Removing focus outlines
- Missing keyboard functionality
- Hiding things the wrong way
Fostering the Culture
- Extreme Design by Derek Featherstone is a one-hour video of how accessible design benefits everyone.
- Creating a Culture of Accessibility by Cordelia McGee Tubs at the Dropbox Tech Blog. This article discusses generating excitement around accessibility, running an accessibility device lab, rewarding the organization's champions, spreading knowledge, and developing a culture of learning around accessibility.
- Reframing Accessibility for the Web by me at A List Apart. This article discusses how stereotypes work, how they're interfering with our accessible design process, and one approach to testing for accessibility that takes the stereotypes out of the direct line of fire.
- Accessibility for Teams by the US Government outlines how each role at an organization or in a team can improve the accessibility of a product.
Agile and Accessibility
- How to write user stories user stories for web accessibility by Kathy Wahlbin at Interactive Accessibility
Why test with people who have disabilities?
- Accessibility user testing: a cautionary tale by Daniel Pidcock outlines one example of what can happen when we assume that our work is accessible.
How to test
Accessibility Testing Tools outlines information about testing.
Accessibility & Mobile Design
- Mobile And Accessibility: Why You Should Care And What You Can Do About It by TJ VanToll at Smashing Magazine
Accessibility & Game Design
- Creating an accessible breakout game using Web Audio & SVG by David Roussett
anne’s Accessibility talks
- Disability as Inspiration Porn
- Products mocked as “lazy” or “useless” are often important tools for people with disabilities by s.e. smith for Vox
- Cool stuff for blind, deaf, or non-verbal people (youtube)
- I am not broken: the language of disabilityby Bookworm Blues
Accessible PDF files
Web Accessibility 101: Screen Magnification & Reflow in Acrobat Reader https://youtu.be/fCrZhnFrxjk
PDF Accessibility by WebAIM
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