I have a hard time understanding why sites that promote accessibility do not have responsive websites. It is so hard reading articles when I am getting the desktop version of the site (1200px wide) on 320px wide device.
Focus on the good.
One of my favorite sites to visit is SimplyAccessible.com. The font size, color contrast for text and responsive nature of the site make it very easy to use on mobile. See. It looks great! But, what is even better, if your on a desktop and you zoom in 250% the site transforms into the mobile version. It’s 100% operable, but it also has the added benefit that it can work for someone that has low-vision. Video demo.
So, if you site is not responsive, you’re missing out on an opportunity to offer low-vision users a better desktop experience AND you missing the boat on mobile traffic. Mobile users have high expectations, if they see the desktop version on their mobile device they don’t even try to deal with it. They just abandon the site. See how going responsive changes that.
As the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) turns 25 years old, I am disappointed that the law is still needed to defend the rights of people with disabilities. The ADA author, Robert L. Burgdorf Jr., recently wrote an article for The Washington Post where he stated, “The ADA was a response to an appalling problem: widespread, systemic, inhumane discrimination against people with disabilities.”
Accessibility benefits everyone.
So, with that law in effect, there will always be ramps or elevators to go along with stairs, braille on signage and other features implemented in every newly constructed or remodeled building since then. Meanwhile, if you look carefully, people whom are elderly, on crutches or pushing strollers (or tired or with their arms full or ect) are using the elevators and ramps too?
These solutions exist, and are available to people not labeled disabled, because they were part of the requirements for the design and development process.
Good commercial construction builders know these requirements are a part of every build, so doorways are large enough, do not have uneven floor seams and so on. With brand new construction sites, you wouldn’t expect to see someone ripping out cemented steps because the stair rise is completely wrong or retrofitting railings because they were not installed. If they were, they should not be building anything. Am I right?
Process changes: Mobile first
Not that long ago, there was a huge challenge given to developers and designers to shoehorn desktop sites into mobile sites. So, what needed to happen was for everyone to think about the mobile design before the desktop design because trying to cram the bloated desktop content into the mobile site wasn’t working. We flipped the design/development process, as we knew it, on its head and now we start with the mobile version.
Let’s hit the reset again!
Trying to retrofit accessibility into a website that never had it is very challenging. Rewriting spans that should have been buttons (or worse, links) and fixing many other common faux pas’ can take a lot of time and resources. The way I’ve been doing it, quietly baking it into each project I’m working on. If we are redesigning the homepage, I make sure the homepage comes out accessible (or the best I can do at the time…I’m still learning).
Wouldn’t it be great if, like a new construction site, we started with accessibility as a normal part of design requirements? And, wouldn’t it be so much easier if we worked from with accessible frameworks? If you know of any that are 100% accessible, please let me know. I am putting my money where my mouth is and giving back by working on the accessibility of open source projects I use (e.g. WordPress).
As we make web content more accessible, it benefits everyone because it makes it more usable: easier to read, use and understand. I see it as an opportunity to create better user experiences for everyone regardless of ability.
I wish we didn’t need laws (or lawsuits) to force accessibility. But, because of the ADA law, we do not expect to hire a construction company just for accessibility features. You just hire a construction company and they should follow the building code laws. The same should apply to the web. Just developers or designers following the web standards, accessibility implied. Someday. 🙂
Shoot, we still say responsive web design. Isn’t just web design, at this point?
Almost a year ago, I attended JSConf. It was amazing. I left that conference with SO many great takeaways, the biggest and most challenging for me was web accessibility.
For a few days following the event, I kept finding myself thinking more and more about how users that were blind, visually impaired, deaf, motor-impaired and so on would use the thing that I was working on. I was visualizing these people in my head struggling over the the most basic aspects, and suddenly it became real for me. I could see how bad the user experience was and I wanted to fix it ASAP!
But, where should I start? So, I turned to the internets and sought out to find the go to resources for web accessibility.
Just because you have alt tags, doesn’t mean they are good ones. I had issues with alt text being the same as the text below the image. Sometimes it is ‘ok’ to have alt=” “. ATs will point this out too.
Some history behind me writing this post. It took me a year to get to the point where I could say, confidently, I know where to look for good info on this topic.
And, here’s what I’d like to call my “Don’t do what I did” list (a.k.a. – chasing your tail around until you’re dizzy):
The w3c – I love you, but I can’t read these docs without a constant drip IV of caffeine and a shock treatment for every time I fall asleep. (Of course I reference the w3c for accuracy, but NOT for how-to’s.) They, also, have a lot of content via the web accessibility initiative, but again…so much content/reading, yet, so few examples.
MDN – In fairness, it looks like there have been a lot of updates here. When I was originally here, there were pages that were like… (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻) f-this. No one can agree on best practices and until they do, we are not dealing with documentation. But, it’s still a cluster-mess if all you are trying to do is figure out how/where to get started.
Finally – I was like… I just want examples!!! Someone, please, just show me some freaking examples!!! So, I went to see what the frameworks (bootstrap/foundation/ect) did for accessibility. Unfortunately, at the time, I was finding nothing, zero, zilch…However, I did find bootstrap plugins and forked repos that were accessible. I was so frustrated to see that these existed, but they were not being brought back to the main codebase: