MADE FOR ACCESSIBILITY. MADE FOR ALL.
In the late ’90s, just before the turn of the Millenium, accessibility was taught purely as a recommendation and not as standard practice. More of a “nice to have” the ability to enable people with disabilities to perceive, understand, navigate, interact, and contribute to the web like everyone else. Two decades later, it’s now the standard!
The Curb Cut Effect
The curb cut is the solid ramp you see on sidewalks in subdivisions and cities that grades down from the top surface to the surface of an adjoining street. It has become ubiquitous in urban design after almost 80 years since it was first piloted in the United States to help war veterans in wheelchairs go about. We don’t usually think about this decline on our sidewalks, but if you’ve pushed a shopping cart to your parking space, cycled in urban streets, or wheeled your luggage to and from the airport, you’ve benefited from this design originally intended to help disabled people. This effect of good design for the vulnerable transcending to the rest of humanity applies to web and digital accessibility as well.
Beautiful but not Accessible
A few years ago, a colleague of ours took the local train to work during rush hour and noticed that one of the seated passengers was using his “beautiful” low contrast and desktop first designs he just released on the web the day prior. Proud of his work, he casually squeezed through the crowded train and observed how this person was using his designs only to be disappointed with what he saw. The seated man, who had the morning sun in his back, had his phone on his face while he continuously squinted and pinched on his phone screen just to read the content. Beautiful websites or apps, when not designed for accessibility, does hurt not only the vulnerable but also the abled in some context.
Small Improvements can Make all the Difference.
Here in the Philippines, you don’t need to go to a remote island to experience relatively slow internet connections due to the country being an archipelago and the congestion of our cell towers. What was initially created to help people with visual disabilities to see graphs, charts, and images through screen readers has been helping us all “see” despite our occasional collective experience of slow internet connections.
Small improvements web designers and developers can integrate into their process is to show a descriptive text on where an image is supposed to display while loading on the background. These assistive texts that are called “alt attributes” allow people who are rushing for a report or researching their next pitch to manage their work despite poor connections. This becomes even more relevant today now that the majority of our school student population will be doing remote learning in their homes in different barangays and islands in the country without fast access to the internet. Other essential considerations to help make your user interface design and visual design more accessible are to provide sufficient contrast between foreground and background. Don’t use color alone to convey information and ensure that interactive elements are easy to identify. As a community, we must understand and believe that great design is accessible design that doesn’t just benefit the vulnerable but all of us, then it becomes easier to be part of our everyday life.
So what does this mean for brands? The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation at breakneck speeds. More people than ever before are buying, learning about, and interacting with brands online. That’s why adjusting your brand’s website to be more inclusive and accessible for anyone, anywhere is not only responsible; it just makes sense. The improvements may be simple, but they go a long way into making your brand’s online experience frictionless for every one of your customers.
So, even though Web accessibility might feel like an extra step, it’s actually a necessary one.
Apart from making beautiful, functional, and effective solutions, Make Technology designs, and develops experiences that are inclusive and accessible to everyone, everywhere.
For more information on web accessibility, you can go to https://www.w3.org/WAI/