Designing for inclusivity
The internet has revolutionized our world. In 2024, more than ever, it plays a critical role in communication, commerce, education, and countless other aspects of daily life. Yet for a significant portion of the population – those with disabilities – the web can be a minefield of frustrating barriers. Web designers and developers are making a commendable shift, finally embracing accessibility not as an afterthought, but as a cornerstone of effective and ethical design.
Why Accessibility Matters
Legal compliance (such as the Americans with Disabilities Act) provides a helpful framework for accessible design. However, it’s essential to understand why accessibility goes far beyond meeting minimum standards:
- Inclusion: Designing for accessibility removes hurdles that exclude people with disabilities, leading to a more inclusive and just digital world.
- User Experience: Accessible websites create a positive, frictionless experience for everyone. Features like alternative text or clearly structured headings benefit sighted users just as much as those with visual impairments.
- Innovation: Focusing on accessibility can drive new technological solutions and enhance web design overall.
- Market Reach: An accessible website opens the door to a wider audience, including the over 1 billion people globally living with some form of disability.
Building Accessibility into the Design Process
Implementing accessibility shouldn’t feel like an extra burden tacked onto a finished design. Here’s how to weave it into your process from the ground up:
- Understanding Disabilities: Gain knowledge of the broad range of disabilities and how they impact user interactions. Explore assistive technologies, such as screen readers and magnifiers, to grasp the full picture.
- Inclusive Design Checklist: Employ handy resources like “Inclusive web design checklists” to guide you through essential elements. Key criteria include:
- Keyboard Navigation: Ensure everything is accessible without a mouse.
- Text Alternatives: Include descriptive alt text for images and captions for videos.
- Colour Contrast: Use sufficient contrast ratios to optimize readability.
- Clear Structure: Implement proper headings (H1 to H6) and semantic HTML for content organisation.
- Meaningful Links: Avoid vague link text like “click here,” offering meaningful context.
- Web Design Testing: Test your web designs with screen readers to fully understand how users with visual impairments interact with your website. Regularly perform manual and automated tests.
- User Feedback: Involve people with disabilities in the testing process to uncover potential hurdles and gain direct insights.
Case Studies: Accessibility in Action
Examining real-world “accessibility web design case studies” serves as inspiration and offers practical takeaways. Here are a few examples:
- Gov.UK: The UK government website is lauded for its accessibility-first approach, demonstrating successful design in a high-visibility environment.
- Deque Systems: A company specialising in digital accessibility, their website leads by example, with an in-depth accessibility statement and resources.
- RNIB: The Royal National Institute of Blind People champions web accessibility and sets an excellent standard on their own site.
Case Study 1: Vision Australia
- Organisation: Vision Australia is a leading provider of blindness and low-vision services across Australia, empowering their clients to live the lives they choose.
- Accessibility Focus: Given their mission, it’s natural that Vision Australia’s website would prioritise accessibility. They employ several strategies:
- Clear Information Architecture: Well-structured headings and organization for ease of navigation, especially for screen readers.
- Alternative Text: Contextual descriptions are provided for all visual content.
- Transcripts and Captions: Audio and video assets have accompanying text alternatives.
- Accessibility Toolkit: Vision Australia’s website includes a suite of tools allowing users to further customize font sizes, colour contrast and more.
- Outcome: These efforts create a web space that welcomes their clients and provides services effectively, in line with their commitment to inclusion.
Case Study 2: ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
- Organisation: Australia’s national broadcaster, responsible for a vast array of content across TV, radio and digital platforms.
- Accessibility Focus: With a massive, diverse audience, ABC has developed comprehensive accessibility initiatives for their web presence. Here’s a focus on their iView streaming platform:
- Captions and Audio Descriptions: Extensive captioning on content with the integration of audio descriptions for enhanced accessibility.
- Adjustable Playback: Control over playback speed for users who may need more time to process information.
- Keyboard Navigation: The platform is fully operable without a mouse.
- Consistent Standards: Adherence to WCAG guidelines across their website and apps.
- Outcome: ABC is widely respected for its progressive, user-centric approach to accessibility, fostering a space where all Australians can enjoy their content offerings.
Resources to Keep You Ahead of the Curve
As design continues to evolve, the following resources help stay up to date on accessibility advancements:
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): The globally recognised standard in website accessibility. (WCAG 2)
- Accessibility Blogs and Communities: Engage with other professionals and discover the latest developments.
- Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools: Tools help pinpoint issues in your own designs.
The Future of Accessible Design
Accessible web design isn’t simply a buzzword. It represents a fundamental shift driven by ethics, empathy and the understanding that inclusive technology benefits us all. With designers prioritizing accessibility early and often, we move closer to a truly connected, just, and innovative global community in the virtual landscape.
Let’s make accessibility our collective design standard, creating a better, more accessible web for everyone. As professional web designers and web developers. We understand the work required to ensure a website is built for accessibility. We know how it can benefit when done right. Talk to a professional or organise a meeting with us today.