Have you heard about accessibility? Do you know what that is? Do you know what it takes to make your website accessible?
Making your website accessible, means providing ability for everyone, regardless of disability or special needs, to use it.
Unfortunately if you put together all accessibility specifications and print it, the stack will be higher than CN Tower in Toronto:
This is not very encouraging. Many people think that it is not worth effort because the customer base with special needs is significantly low. However, there is a thing called situational disability that applies to all of us. Moreover, when we are building our websites with accessibility in mind, we make them better for everyone. Why? Because everybody is more comfortable when he can use forms on website with keyboard only (without mouse) and switch between fields fast. Everybody likes when focus is set on search box for sites that in 99% of the time, the first thing you do is search for something. Everybody likes properly matched colors (accessible contrast).
How do you get started? How to survive without reading tons of specifications?
3 steps to fulfill 80% standards with 20% effort
- Make your website usable with keyboard only:
- make sure that focus outline is visible all the time and user can determine which element is currently focused
- no extra/unnecessary TAB stops
- no tabstop traps (when you cannot get out of element with keyboard)
- Implement smart focus management:
- set focus on appropriate elements after user actions (e.g., when user navigates to page with login form – set focus on login text field; in 90% of cases the next user action will be entering login)
- restore focus to appropriate elements after user actions (e.g., when user closes menu, focus should be restored to element that was focused before opening the menu)
- make tab order user friendly (remove not actionable and not informative tab stops)
- Make your website usable with screen reader :
- When element gets focused, screen reader should provide meaningful information to the user (e.g., “image Satya Nadella” when focused on Satya’s image, or “menu collapsed” when focused on dropdown menu)
- Min bar: make it good enough with one screen reader and one browser first. As of 2016-08-22 the best browser + screen reader combination is Firefox + NVDA (it has text mode that prints output instead of converting it into speech: Tools -> Speech viewer)
- Add aria tags to elements only when screen reader cannot infer information from HTML (e.g., button element does not need role=’button’ as screen reader will infer it)
Good to know
- Don’t focus too much on “being compliant to the standards” at the beginning. Just use the common sense and your intuition. You can deep dive into standards later on.
- Make your website’s’ most common scenarios working well first, and focus on less popular pages later.
- Only 20% of accessibility requirements can be verified by tools. The rest has to be verified manually by:
- user study
- accessibility expert
Resources to get started
- Web Accessibility Tutorial
- Web Accessibility Resources by Marcy Sutton
- Especially: examples of accessible websites
- Web Accessibility: Getting Started (Pluralsight)
If you are web developer you probably like when the tool you are using enables you to do everything without the mouse. This is thanks to keyboard accessibility, and smart focus management. If you play with color contrast analyzer you will notice that colors with good contrast just looks better. Be aware that accessibility is performance first. When your website is slow it can lead to unexpected focus behaviors, unwanted user actions, or moving content. How many times you tried to scroll to some part of website and it was moving because images were loading? I’m sure a lot.
What do you think? Is the website you are working on accessible? Have you ever even think about it?