The Importance Of Web Accessibility


Mirum | Hong Kong |   2019-11-22
Keywords: Innovation | Web Application
words | minutes read

15% of the world’s population has a disability, that’s 5 times more than the people who still use old browsers

15% of the world’s population has a disability, that’s 5 times more than the people who still use old browsers

Web accessibility is user experience at its best, adding addition context and features for people who need to view content on web through a computer or mobile device in a different way.

 15% of the world’s population has a disability, based on current world statistics that’s 5 times more than the people who use old browsers. I find a lot of clients like to focus on making sure that their web application runs perfectly on old browsers that people keep around for nostalgia. I firmly believe the focus should instead be on those users who have a genuine need to access websites easily, with minimal effort, to get the information about the products or services that they need when they need it.

The standards surrounding what is web accessibility are all based on a user’s ability to access information that caters for the way in which they prefer to consume the information. These concepts focus on four key areas relating to UX design; colour customization, text sizing, navigation and context.

Colour customization has always been popular in programs, software, and almost everything we have in our daily life. However, it's not just based on our aesthetic preference, many people read and comprehend information better in different colours with different contrasts.  When it comes to web accessibility the gold standard with colour is the ability to allow people change backgrounds, text, focus and highlight colours to allow them to view the content the way they want.

The focal points we use to concentrate vary from person to person. On computers and mobile devices text size preference is very subjective, some people prefer to read text at 50% of its original size and others at 200%. All modern browsers solve this by allowing you to zoom in or out the view of your content. For web accessibility the standard is met if the content and all functionality are the regardless of their zoom percentage. In addition, there should be an option to allow the user to manually select letter spacing

The mouse arguably is one of the best inventions of all time, allowing us to quickly pinpoint and interact with digital interfaces, but what if you couldn’t use a mouse or had limited keyboard functionality. Some of you may have already mastered the navigation of computers with just a keyboard, but imagine trying to make a flight booking where the multi-dropdown menu system does not support tab key access. To ensure that people who have limited access to physical interaction devices can still access your website, the content must be structured and tagged with specific code markers to allow for simple navigation. To ensure the whole site is accessible all functionality and content should be tested without the use of a mouse and the help of a screen reader which is described below.

Context or context sensitive means that the content delivers exactly what you when you need it. It is fundamentally important to communication and understanding. When we talk about context with regards to web accessibility it is about providing additional information to give context to those who may not see the information in the same way.

The best example of context would be a picture of a snowy mountaintop covered with pine trees against the backdrop of a clear blue sky. Whilst I have just described to you the picture in detail, if I was to upload that picture as 231871823_new.jpg, a person who could not see the picture would have a very hard time understanding the context of what picture was about when using a screen reader. Now imagine if this was a picture about a product or service that your company offered. This doesn’t just help people who use screen reader technology, it also boosts your SEO ranking as well!

Context isn’t just limited to pictures extends to all the content you have. In principle your entire website or application should be easily accessed by a screen reader so that visual impaired people can still access content.  This means that the structure and content should be carefully planned out to put users first when designing for web or mobile. For web accessibility the use of aria tags helps define and provide additional context to non-native functionality.

Following those standards is easy enough and provides huge value for all the people who access and view content that a web or mobile application has, It can lead to better conversions and engagement with all your customers and can allow you to tap into a new demographic of users that previously could not use the services or products you offer.

Whilst web accessibility may seem like a nice to have, access to information is quickly becoming law in many countries. Our view on accessibility is “including the WACG 2.1 guidelines in the UX design phase of your website, will provide the users of your website a better experience and require substantial more effort trying to reverse engineer if you don’t. This guide has been an overview of the core standards that exist, but with accessibility there are different levels that can be achieved and different requirements depending on how your website is structured and user interactions are expected to happen.

Patrick Williams

About the author

Patrick Williams

I am a full stack web developer, with a strong passion for connected experiences. However in reality i spend most of my time doing DevSecOps and System Architecture. When i am not coding i will be out teaching scuba diving or snowboarding.

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