What is this all about?
So you want to dig into the topic of (web) accessibility? Wonderful! But you’re not sure where to start? Don’t worry - you're not alone. Getting going can be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. That's what this site is for - to introduce you to accessibility. This page doesn’t claim to be an "in-depth" source. It's here to give you a few ideas on how to start making your page more accessible.
The goal is to make it as easy as possible for people who use assistive technology like screen reader software while also pointing out how things will change the web experience.
Why should I care about accessibility anyway?
Imagine the following scenario: You're on a bus. The bus arrives at a stop and the doors open. In front of the door you see a person in a wheelchair. Now the person next to you turns to the driver and yells
Hey! Get going! Don't worry about this cripple. I'm in a rush. — How would you react to this? Wouldn't you be furious and yell at this impertinent individual? I hope you do! I for one would help the person in the wheelchair. I'm always the guy who swings out the ramp and sometimes I even help push the chair so the person can board the bus easily. So, let's agree on the fact that helping others is the right thing to do. But why are we so ignorant and irate on the internet?
It can happen to you, too
Let's not hope for the worst. You don't have to have an accident and lose a limb. But - as the lovely folks from Microsoft point out in their Inclusive Toolkit Manual (dowbnload the PDF, 21MB) - there are lots of different types of impairments. Have a look for yourself. Here's an example:
You may have an impairment regarding touch. "Permanent" could mean you've lost an arm in a car crash. "Temporary" could mean you fell from a bike and broke an arm. "Situational" could mean you're holding a baby. In all cases you have an impairment. For example, you have trouble using your mouse or your smartphone. See? It can happen to you, too. At any time and in a whole host of scenarios. Wouldn't it be nice if someone had thought of this case so you can still navigate a page but without the mouse? Yes, it would.
Everyone will benefit from accessibility
Have your heard the story about the pavement? No? Okay. Legend has it that every pavement used to be of equal height. In fact there’s no law or guideline (in Germany at least) that dictates how high a pavement has to be. From town to town, from district to district, even from street to street, the pavements can differ in height.
So back to the legend. It says that in the 19th century someone realised that every time a nanny was crossing the street, she had to step down from the pavement to the street level - and vice versa on the other side of the street. The babies woke up and started to cry. No one wants to listen to a baby crying. So some smart brains came up with the idea of lowering the pavement to street level at junctions.
All of a sudden, the nannies were able to cross streets without waking up the babies. Hence no crying. The moral of the story is that someone fixed a problem for a specific target group. This target group - in our case the nannies - benefit from this accomplishment. The pavement was accessible for prams and buggies. Hurray! But don’t forget that there are other groups that benefit from these lowered pavements: people in wheelchairs, cyclists, people with wheeled walkers as well as frail and elderly.
A single target group with multiple winners. Tell this story to your client or your boss. Sometimes it helps to have a good story on hand to get your point across.
Some countries do have guidelines that govern how accessible a webpage has to be. The UK has a guideline, Canada as well, and the USA as well - to name but a few. Europe is currently working on a common guideline.
There was a case involving Target and the missing Alt attribute. They forgot to add proper attributes and were subsequently sued. In the end they had to pay 6 million dollars to the "National Federation of the Blind". And that despite the fact that it's pretty easy to add an Alt attribute. The Federation filed suit against the discounter because they didn't follow the rules, meaning they were vulnerable. There are other cases where companies were sued. You can check out this legal site to read about other cases.
Do you really want to miss out on customers?
I stumbled upon this tweet by the "European Blind Union". The tweet says:
Working in #ecommerce or #banking? Please make your #shopping & #mobilebanking #apps #accessible. 30 million #blind EU customers waiting!That means there are approx. 20 million potential customers in Europe alone (I subtracted young people who aren’t customers - yet.). The question is: Can you afford not to serve them? To lock them out? Even if you can, this just isn’t the right way to treat people. Let's face it: You're saying you don't want to put time and money into your page because
it's too expensive.On the other hand, you’re throwing away money by not letting people access your store. How odd.