UXPA Event Recap: Web Accessibility

What is an accessible website? What are the benefits of making a website accessible? How do you integrate accessibility into a website? These and more are the questions UX/UI Designer Bill Tyler answered at the UXPA event: An Exploration into Accessibility, Agile & WCAG 2.0.

What is an accessible website?

Basically, an accessible website means that anyone with a disability can use and interact with it. Accessible websites will have added features or designs that cater to someone whether they have a visual, auditory, speech, physical or neurological disability.

What are the benefits of making a website accessible?

Making a website accessible is important because roughly one in five people have one or more diagnosed disabilities. Even as people age, it is inevitable that everyone will one day become “disabled” in some way. So even though a huge percentage of people have a need for accessible sites, it seems to be an issue often forgotten or dealt with last on a website. This suddenly becomes a problem however, if someone who is blind visits a website, and the audio reads out: “Press the green button!” If they are blind, how are they supposed to know where a green colored button is? A site needs to have different methods tailored to accommodate a wide range of disabilities, and simply having background audio that reads everything out will not fix the problem. Accessibility should also not be saved until the last moment for a website. Tyler’s recommendation is that accessibility should be “designed in” early and often.

How do you integrate accessibility into a website?

Standards:

To start making a website accessible, there is a universal set of web content accessibility guidelines, WCAG 2.0, that are widely used in all corners of the world. The purpose of WCAG 2.0 is to boil down the process of making a website accessible into a shorter, more efficient process.

WCAG 2.0 has four principles: perceivable, understandable, operable and robust. There are hundreds of different techniques used for WCAG, and before deciding on one, it is important to know what already works for the site. Figuring out the who, what and where can act as a “squeegee” to de-mystify the criteria and clarify needs.

Implementation:

To make a website accessible you need a reliable team with everyone assigned to different criteria based off WCAG 2.0. Accessibility requires the following roles:

  • Accessibility Specialist – Expert consultant of subject matter
  • Business owner – Describes company needs and approves results
  • Interaction (IX) Designer – Translates needs into wireframes
  • Visual (VX) Designer – Responsible for colors and branding
  • Content Author – Implements content, video and audio
  • Developer – Produces to current web standards
  • QA Tester – Identifies defects and has the final say on web content

Ownership of criterion:

Figuring out who owns which criterion is important as well, as some roles that may have different workloads than others.

  • Business Owner  3%
  • IX Designer – 36%
  • VX Designer – 16%
  • Content Author – 24%
  • Developer – 21%

Where does the criteria show up in the design?

If you know where the accessibility criteria enter in the design process, it can help resolve issues earlier, which saves time later on in testing.  This analysis shows that 95 percent of the decisions affecting accessibility appear before the developer begins to work, which proves how important it is for all of the roles to understand the impact of their decisions.

  • User Story/Standard Requirement – 25%
  • Wireframes – 50%
  • Style Guide – 18%
  • Content – 2%
  • Code – 5%

Including accessibility into a website is a step too crucial to be forgotten, and is essential if the goal is to reach a large audience. With WCAG 2.0, it doesn’t have to be a difficult process, especially if you stay organized, know what your priorities are and distribute your criteria effectively to each person working on the site.

The wonderful part of web accessibility is that once those tools are put in place, anyone and everyone is able to gain from, and contribute to the Web; making the Internet a much more open and user-friendly place.

Bill Tyler is a UX/UI Designer with Optum Health Care Technology. To discover more about Optum, click here.

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