I wanted to do some research into web accessibility after the talk I attended with Reginé Gilbert and MT Mc Cann with UX Belfast ( blog post- here). This is such an important topic and as I designer it is my duty to learn more about it.
What is Web accessibility?
Computer accessibility refers to the accessibility of a computer system to all people, regardless of disability type or severity of impairment.
The power of the Web is in its universality.
Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.
The history of accessible technology
Accessibility can be viewed as the “ability to access”. Accessibility is strongly related to universal design (process of creating products that are usable by people with the widest possible range of abilities, operating within the widest possible range of situations).
Tim Berners-Lee, who is the “official” founder of the internet, was (and still is) quite keen on ensuring everyone has equal access to it. So Tim Berners-Lee and the web guidelines group he founded, the W3C, first came out with WCAG 1.0 in 1999. This is made up of 14 guidelines that each covered a specific element of web accessibility- to help everyone access the Internet.
What is the w3c?
The World Wide Web Consortium is the main international standards organisation for the World Wide Web. It was founded in 1994 and is currently led by Tim Berners-Lee, it is made up of full-time staff who work together in the development of standards for the World Wide Web.
What is the WCAG?
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines- WCAG is often referred to as the gold standard in accessibility and they are widely respected as providing the best path to accessibility compliance
Why is it this so important?
7 out of 10 websites are not Accessible. It is everyones human right to be able to access online interfaces and designers are failing.
Top 5 things that exclude users
David Benyon author of Designing Interactive Systems, gives 5 reasons products often exclude users:
“When UX doesn’t consider ALL users, shouldn’t it be known as “SOME User Experience” or… SUX?” Billy Gregory, Senior Accessibility Engineer
Don Norman is now experiencing the world as a user with Accessibility needs in his elderly age.
“The number of active, healthy oldsters is large and increasing. We are not a niche market. And businesses should take note: We are good customers often with more free time and discretionary income than younger people.
You’re breaking the law if you ignore Accessibility
According to the Equality Act (2010), Section 29(1):
“A person … concerned with the provision of a service to the public or a section of the public (for payment or not) must not discriminate against a person requiring the service by not providing the person with the service.”
Therefore not providing a service to a disabled person that is normally provided to other people is unlawful discrimination. This applies as much online as it does offline making this a pressing and relevant issue.
Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including:
Web accessibility is also for people without disabilities, this can include:
- people using mobile phones, smart watches, smart TVs, and other devices with small screens, different input modes, etc.
- older people with changing abilities due to ageing.
- people with “temporary disabilities” such as a broken arm or lost glasses.
- people with “situational limitations” such as in bright sunlight or in an environment where they cannot listen to audio.
- people using a slow Internet connection, or who have limited or expensive bandwidth.
Accessibility supports social inclusion for people with disabilities as well as others, such as:
- older people
- people in rural areas-bad wifi
- people in developing countries- poor
Example of good web accessibility
I want to do more blog posts surrounding companies and websites that are creating and displaying good web accessibility designs, just like GOV.UK.
Example of bad web accessibility
(Shoutout to those of you who remember Cool Maths Games and their awful website).
What makes bad web accessibility?
I sketched some notes on my iPad design decisions that are bad accessible design.
The biggest issue
One of the biggest accessibility issues is – colour contrast. Using colour contrast and colour accessibility is so important because it enables people with visual impairments or colour vision deficiencies to interact with digital experiences easier and in the same way as people who are non visionary impaired. Working with colours is the number 1 thing that designers are doing wrong but it is so important to make sure that you use the right colours and combos. There are lots of colour contrast tools out there and I want to do another blog post about this topic as I am very interested in colour and accessibility. I knew that this is the number 1 issue as Reginé mentioned that there were lots of studies done on this topic and it was revealed that colour is the main issue.
In order to meet W3C’s minimum AA rating, your background to text contrast ratio should be at least 4.5:1. So, when designing things like buttons or navigation elements, it is important to check the contrast ratio of the colour combinations.
Sources to improve Accessibility
There are lots of advice for web accessibility online in todays society including guidance and books etc:
What did I learn?
The fact of the matter is that need for digital accessibility is not going away, and nor should it. Worldwide, the WHO estimates that 15% of the population lives with a disability, that is a large number of people who deserve to be able to access what the rest of us can. It is their human right. Accessibility is a real problem and as designers we have the tools and ability to help everyone access the internet and our interactions that we create. I have learned a lot about this topic from the research I have done above but how can I bring this into my future work and designs? I will follow the steps I learned from Reginé and MT as well as the ones I have discovered above. I will read books on Accessibility for the web and continue my research. I feel very passionate about this and this is something that I definitely want to learn more about and gain more knowledge and insight into how I can become a more inclusive designer.