While doing the bootcamp at Juno College, our mentors told us the importance of Accessibility when building websites. Some developers are starting to think about creating functional and good looking websites while having accessibility in mind but in reality most of the professional developers that are in the workforce have little to no knowledge about the concept.
The power of the Web is in its universality.
Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.
— Tim Berners-Lee, Inventor of the World Wide Web
What is Web Accessibility?
The World Wide Web was originally made for all users. This means that people from different aspects of the world could be able to use the web without any barriers whether they have different devices, languages, locations or abilities. Barriers occur when a website or application is badly designed, which hinders users from accessing the Web.
Web accessibility is often misconceived towards people with disabilities but the concept is also focused on users that are affected by their environment. For example, a user who would have a hard time accessing a website that is not in their mother tongue until they change the site’s language, similar to how a person with bad eye sight needs to wear glasses. Barriers can be broken by creating a comfortable environment that is convenient for the user.
Examples of Disabilities
These disabilities vary from temporary, situational or permanent:
- auditory 🧏🏼♂️
- neurological / cognitive impairment 🧠
- physical 👨🏽🦽
- speech 🗣
- visual 👩🏽🦯
How to create a web accessible site?
To create an accessible website or application means to be inclusive to all kinds of users, from your target users to users with disabilities or even users from other countries who speaks different languages. Knowing and understanding each environment and how to create them is key to building an accessible website.
Every country has their own guidelines on how to create an accessible website but all of them point back to the WCAG (World Content Accessibility Guidelines) which is recommended by W3C.
In Ontario, Canada where I currently live, starting in January 2021 all public website and web contents posted after January 2012 will have to follow and meet all the Level AA guidelines of WCAG 2.1 including, live caption and pre-recorded audio description.
What is WCAG 2.1?
WCAG (World Content Accessibility Guidelines) are reference guidelines on how to create an accessible website. In 2018 they released an update on the guidelines which is now known as WCAG 2.1. This version provides new criteria to enhance mobile functionality and give the end user more flexibility.
The Guidelines are categorized into three different levels: A , AA and AAA (lowest to highest). The most common level of compliance to obtain in many regions, including Ontario, is AA.
Who are the guidelines for?
Realistically, the guidelines are all best practices that encourages developers to make the web accessible to all users, but there are also some key guidelines that are focused on people with disabilities:
Low vision users — Extended contrast ratio requirements for graphics and controls to support visual perception.
Cognitive, language or learning disabilities — Providing more detailed information about the purpose of different input controls and supporting timeouts due to inactivity.
There are many Developers that are longstanding members of the industry that lack knowledge about accessibility. As the world starts pushing developers to make web accessible the demand for this skillset is valuable. Learning accessibility guidelines can become an assets for your entire development team and the community as a whole .