As a design professional, the number of times I’ve heard or seen the word accessibility has increased exponentially over the years. Conference keynote speakers center their talks around accessibility, blog posts dive into the business case for accessibility and clients ask if we have experience meeting accessibility standards. This makes sense since the web is a place where people have to fulfill important tasks like paying their bills, applying for jobs and keeping in touch with their family.
The growing awareness of accessibility proves how many people benefit from an accessible web. According to a U.S. Census Bureau report nearly 1 in 5 people have a disability in the US, at about 56.7 million people. Web accessibility according to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) means “websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them. More specifically, people can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web and contribute to the Web.”
Given the number of people living with disabilities, accessibility practices should be second nature, though many people still struggle with how to start. Using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 provided by the W3C, I’ve outlined a few ways in which various team members within an organization can implement and advocate for accessibility with confidence.
- Focus on consistency early on in your process. If you are creating a brand, a design system or a style guide, use this opportunity to choose color pallets that will be uniform across your brand.
- Use this same approach of consistency when selecting typography. The WCAG has a clear list of text specific guidelines to make this straightforward. Knowing this information upfront makes it easier to set guidelines in place that can be followed during handoffs to development and post launch.
- Implement logical and clear navigation. Also ensure sitemaps are included on your website. When diving into a site’s structure, even if it already exists, find ways to make it simpler. Even if that means simplifying the copy.
- Make sure button, links and controls are large enough for the user to interact with. This is especially important on mobile. Users may have difficulty keeping their hands steady or are using alternatives to make selections on a screen or computer.
- UI designers can make sure they have adequate color contrast in designs. Tools like Stark are compatible with Sketch and Adobe XD, offering a colorblind simulation and a contrast website accessibility checker.
- When creating content and copy for the website use clear and concise language. Try to avoid idioms and jargon. This is incredibly useful for functional copy like navigation titles.
- Assist developers with writing alt text for images. Alt text is a description of an image that can be read aloud with the assistant of screen readers, helping users who are visually impaired.
- Promote your team to read up on accessibility, or if time is limited, provide the team with quick resources regarding the topic.
- Have knowledge of the functionality that is being implemented in your project that aids accessibility. Be able to further explain with the client the importance of accessibility.
- Set up a logical tab navigation or focus states for users who navigate a site with only their keyboard. Best practice is to navigate sequentially through content.
- Use developer tools to confirm accessibility standards are being met. Chrome DevTools offers an outline of their accessibility features.
I urge you to begin using these web accessibility initiatives in your day-to-day projects. I hope this has inspired you to dive deeper into web accessibility guidelines and to go beyond meeting the basic requirements. Implementing accessibility is a mindset that is cultivated over time.