Making the Web a Better Place: Accessibility Learnings

Making the Web a Better Place: Accessibility Learnings

“Accessibility” tends to be a word that’s easily thrown into conversations to convey a sense of inclusivity but oftentimes comes with a lack of understanding.

“Accessibility” tends to be a word that’s easily thrown into conversations to convey a sense of inclusivity but oftentimes comes with a lack of understanding.

Accessibility, often shortened to A11Y, shouldn’t be confused with usability. Usability refers to how a product is used by its users to achieve certain goals — effectively, efficiently, and with a sense of satisfaction. Accessibility, on the other hand, is the design of products such that it is usable by people with a wide range of abilities. In a nutshell, everyone (and by everyone, I really do mean every one) should be able to use it.

I confess that I did not know much about accessibility for software development. It was a topic that was not covered or mentioned in my bootcamp, but it’s a topic I find to be critically important as I continue to move forward in this space — even as a new developer. I am currently learning, as we all are.

I hope to delve deeper into this topic in my later articles, but for now, here are some quick and simple tips to keep in mind the next time you write that image tag without a descriptive alternate text or create a form/input field with no labels for it.

Note: There are a few different groups of disabilities to keep in mind: visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive. Today’s tips will be more visual-focused.

Visual

The ones that often and easily come to mind are visual — people who are blind or have a visual impairment and low visual acuity. Keyboard navigation is crucial for addressing these issues. Additionally, with visual disabilities, developers should not rely on color as the sole navigational tool or indication of different items. Namely, do not solely depend on the colors red and green to indicate bad or good. Why? Color blindness!

Now, I’m not saying to not use color. Use it! It makes the world come to life! But please add icons, text, and other elements to reinforce the content. Check your color contrast too — a low contrast can prove difficult to read for users.

Lastly, some people prefer a large print text or magnification to help read content, so design the page to allow for a zoomed-in lens with clear communication of the page’s content.

If images are included, and they often are, be sure to include alternative text in the markup/code! It’s a simple addition while you’re writing the code. It’s right there. A caption or descriptive summary close to the image is also a helpful addition. Users with visual impairments rely on assistive tools like screen readers to get information from the page. Screen readers will read out the alt text.

Additionally, let’s say you’re incorporating a form onto the page. For each input field, have a labelattached such that if a user were to click the label, the corresponding input field will focus. This is called an accessibility tree — something that screen readers utilize. It informs the user of various properties of the element (like the type, name, and state). This way, the connection between the label and input field element is clear and helps the user know what they’re answering.

accessibility web-development programming html web-accessibility

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