Be Accessible, Be Usable, Be Inclusive
When you design web content, you want to offer the best product or service so people can have the best experience and come back to your company or organization.
But most important, people need access and equal opportunities regardless if they have a disability or not. To be successful in both (usability and accessibility), you need to consider a few aspects that are commonly overlooked.
Usability is the qualities that make a user experience intuitive, efficient, effective and easy to use.
Human-centred design is an approach to interactive systems development that aims to make systems usable and useful by focusing on the users, their needs and requirements, and by applying human factors/ergonomics, and usability knowledge and techniques. This approach enhances effectiveness and efficiency, improves human well-being, user satisfaction, accessibility and sustainability; and counteracts possible adverse effects of use on human health, safety and performance
Inclusive design is a methodology that enables and accommodates a full range of human diversity.
Similar to inclusive design, universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.
In 1997 a working group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers in the North Carolina State University developed the 7 principles
- The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
- The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
- Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
- The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
- The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
- The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
- Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility.
As good practice, there are additional considerations such as economic, engineering, cultural, gender, and environmental concerns.
Web accessibility is when the content of websites, apps, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them. Accessibility also benefits people without disabilities, for example: older people, people with temporary disabilities, people using a slow Internet connection, people with environment limitations, people using mobile phones, smart watches, smart TVs, and other devices.
Content is accessible when it is available to everyone and the functionality can be operated by anyone. Eliminate obstacles when interacting, transmitting, perceiving or understanding information.
Accessibility improves usability, brings the benefit of autonomy and provides efficient and safe options for education, employment and everyday tasks.
Disabilities affecting the web
Disabilities can impact the way people use the web. There are multiple reasons and multiple scenarios of users with auditory, cognitive, physical, and visual disabilities. For example:
A user may not be able to hear voices and sounds of a training video, so captions or transcripts will offer an equivalent alternative.
Complex sentences or instructions may be difficult to understand, so clear instructions and a simpler text can help.
A user may not be able to use a mouse, so full keyboard support is needed.
Images and buttons may not have an equivalent text alternative for screen readers, so an alternative text is needed.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century and is the first human rights convention.
The Convention entered into force on 3 May 2008 and follows decades of work by the United Nations to change attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. It takes to a new height the movement from viewing persons with disabilities as “objects” of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as “subjects” with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society.
- To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.
International standard, principles & guidelines
The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in collaboration with individuals and organizations developed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 so designers, developers, content authors, project managers, students, instructors, professionals, and people with disabilities know how to make web content more accessible.
There are 4 principles and under the principles are guidelines.
The 13 guidelines provide the basic goals that authors should work toward in order to make content more accessible.
Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
1.1 Guideline: Text Alternatives
Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.
1.2 Guideline: Time-based Media
Provide alternatives for time-based media.
1.3 Guideline: Adaptable
Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
1.4 Guideline: Distinguishable
Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.
User interface components and navigation must be operable.
2.1 Guideline: Keyboard Accessible
Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
2.2 Guideline: Enough Time
Provide users enough time to read and use content.
2.3 Guideline: Seizures and Physical Reactions
Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures or physical reactions.
2.4 Guideline: Navigable
Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.
2.5 Guideline: Input Modalities
Make it easier for users to operate functionality through various inputs beyond keyboard.
Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
3.1 Guideline: Readable
Make text content readable and understandable.
3.2 Guideline: Predictable
Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
3.3 Guideline: Input Assistance
Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
4.1 Guideline 4.1 Compatible
Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.
Assistive technologies are software or equipment that people with disabilities use to improve interaction with the web, such as screen readers that read aloud web pages for people who cannot read text, screen magnifiers for people with some types of low vision, and voice recognition software and selection switches for people who cannot use a keyboard or mouse.
To ensure that the web content is accessible you must test in way that people with disabilities would navigate in their environment and with their assistive technology.
Make sure that you included accessibility guidelines in the software development lifecycle, otherwise you will find a lot of issues that your team will need to fix. It is better if you test in each phase of the project, and not just at the end.
There are two different types of testing:
For automated testing there are a lot of free online options that will help you, save you time and give you an accurate result. For example: color contrast validators between background and text.
In other cases, even if you use the best tool, there are accessibility requirements that only a human can define as correct. For example, an automated tool can show you the alternative text of an image, but only a human can say if that text describes the image content.
For manual testing, you have the option of simulate the scenario of visual, hearing, and motor disability.
The other option is to ask people with disabilities to do the testing and ask them to think outload. This can offer usability and accessibility feedback through an interview or survey. We also recommend to see or record the testing (screen and user interaction) in case other team members need to watch for better understanding of the challenges, barriers or feedback.
Visit our Web Accessibility Matrix