Introduction to Accessibility and Inclusion

Contents of this post

  1. Introduction
  2. What is web accessibility?
  3. Types of disabilities
  4. Who is Responsible? Accessibility in SDLC.
  5. Accessibility myths
  6. Benefits of accessible websites

The dictionary term “Accessibility” means – The ability to easily obtain, use, understand or enter.

Accessibility is a social responsibility, it’s an inclusive approach in creating products, services, and environment that can be used by people with disabilities, such as

  • Wheelchairs
  • Entry and exit ramps for buildings
  • Elevators and rampalators
  • Accessibile car parks
  • Hearing aids
  • Braille devices

What is Web Accessibility?

“Web accessibility is an inclusive practice to ensure web content can be used by a diverse range of audience including people with disabilities.”

In today’s world, the internet is the most essential aspect of survival for everyone in terms of education, banking, communication, employment, shopping, recreation, health care bookings, online ticketing, food on delivery and many more. So, the web content must be accessible to everyone, thereby providing equal opportunities to all.

Types of Disabilities

Fig 1 – Illustration represents accessible and responsive websites that encompasses all forms of disabilities like (Vision, Auditory, Speech, Motor, Cognitive).

Disabilities include a wide range of user groups with one or more limitations that could be permanent or temporary, range from mild to severe disabilities, could be situational, have device-specific limitations or internet bandwidth limitations, etc.

Common disabilities/ impairments are categorized into five types.

  • Visual – Low vision, blindness, colorblindness.
  • Auditory – Hard of hearing, deafness, deaf-blindness.
  • Speech – Difficulty producing speech that is recognizable by others or by voice recognition software.
  • Motor or Physical – Inability to use a mouse, limited motor control, lack of hand-eye coordination.
  • Cognitive, Neurological – Learning, reading and understanding difficulties, inability to focus, memory disorders, seizures disorders.

Understanding the types of disabilities and how people with disabilities use the web is a great way to start the accessibility journey. It helps us to think from the user’s perspective, identify potential barriers, create accessible content and aim to provide a good user experience for everyone.

Who is Responsible?

Digital accessibility is everyone’s responsibility. It’s not just the responsibility of the developers but the entire digital team.

Accessibility in Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)

Responsibilities of the team to deliver accessible websites and products at each level of the Software Development Life Cycle, includes

1. Requirement Analysis

  • High-level managers – organizational policies, accessibility strategy, resources, trainings and budget for accessibility. Employ people with disabilities, provide equal opportunities to all.
  • Product owner, business analyst – Define project and accessibility requirements, make project decisions i.e kickoffs, releases, accessibility test cycles and sign-offs, etc.

2. Design

  • User experience (UX)/ User Interface (UI) designer, Visual designer – User research & accessible design strategies, create accessible visual layouts & responsive design, UI and component library design to re-use the components and maintain consistency, Branding, Usability testing, Conducting design reviews with users in mind.

3. Development

  • Developers (Front end, back end) – Develop websites that are easy to navigate, accessed via keyboard, compatible with various assistive technology, works on different viewports, scalable and robust.
  • Content Developers – Design content that is simple and easy to understand, Define meaningful text alternatives for non-text content and multimedia, Example – ‘Alt text’ for images, captions, transcripts, audio descriptions, copyrights.

4. Testing

  • Test Analysts, QA’s – Test Planning, Perform accessibility tests and audits, Regression tests, Provide detailed test reports, Audit reports, document ‘Accessibility Status Documents’ e.g VPAT.
  • User testing – Include users with disabilities to test, their reviews and insights are invaluable. It is a great way for the team to get a better understanding of users limitations and how they use the web. This helps us design and develop better usable products and improve user experience.

Accessibility Myths

People, business and organizations often have misconceptions about web accessibility, some of them are

  • Accessibility is only for people with disabilities, only a few people benefit from accessible sites.
  • Accessibility is only for visually impaired and screenreader users.
  • Accessibility is expensive, time-consuming and difficult to achieve.
  • Accessible websites are boring and have poor design.
  • Accessibility is mandatory only for the government, they are optional for all others.

Benefits of accessible websites

Along with making content that can be easily used by all, accessible websites have some unexpected benefits

  1. Situational limitations – It helps users with all forms of limitations like location, limited bandwidth or low internet speed to access the content.
  2. Usability – It increases usability and provides a good user experience.
  3. Reachability – Providing equal opportunities increases reachability which promotes business opportunities.
  4. SEO – Improves Search Engine Optimization, thereby increases website traffic and increases business.
  5. Maintenance Cost – Quality and scalable code reduce website maintenance costs.
  6. Legal – Websites that comply with accessibility standards have a low risk of legal complaints and lawsuits.

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