Are all sites accessible to all? Do they meet the needs of people with all kinds of disabilities? Trying to find a workaround and needing other people to navigate a website, buy a pair of socks, or spending half an hour to find the unsubscribe button is not a pleasant experience.
It’s a good thing that screen readers have been around for the past two decades, and for sure, they have come a long way, but all the ads, pop-ups, promotions, and ads are enough to make even a sighted user feel overwhelmed. Also, the aesthetic of the design is an essential factor when it comes to visual experiences; however, sometimes, a good design for the sighted crowd can become disastrous for visually impaired people. So, what should we do then?
There are some questions web designers should answer before launching their website. Do I want all people to use my site or access all the information I provide, read my content, and buy my product or service, regardless of their disabilities? If the answer is yes, which it should be, there are a couple of simple things that should be considered.
First of all, you don’t have to compromise design in order to be accessible. You can offer an accessible version of the website, with bigger fonts, no hard-to-read fonts, fewer pop-ups and boxes, higher contrast, and a color scheme that doesn’t confuse colorblind users. This mashable article provides enough details about how to rethink your web design when it comes to accessibility.
Secondly, if you browse some visual impairment Facebook groups, you can find lots of complaints and comments about (in)accessibility of websites, products, and services. For example, in one of the groups, there is a mention about websites that constantly refresh themselves become impossible to navigate with screen readers as the reader starts over every time the page refreshes and the reader loses their place on the page.
Unlabeled links are also a big issue, and they can even be a lawsuit factor. Sighted people might have no problems in distinguishing the buttons that would take them where they want to go, but if the button doesn’t have a clear label, a blind or visually impaired user will have a hard time deciding what to do, which can be frustrating and leave people confused, and eventually, they drop off.
Another issue with websites and screen readers is that all screen readers work differently. They have different shortcuts, not all of them pick up the same fonts and clickable items, and variations between platforms can be a big issue.
There is a meme on the internet that was circling for years that says, “My Brain is Like An Internet Browser. I Have 24 Tabs Open Things Are Frozen, and I Don’t Know Where The Voices Are Coming From.” Consider yourself as a person with vision impairment, a website launches, and immediately a video/audio content starts to play. As you cannot see what’s happening, you don’t know how to stop it. Uncool, isn’t it?
Again, labeling comes to the fore. Without a clearly labeled stop, play, dismiss, or close button present, the user experience of a website that opens with video/audio content might be a perplexing one.
According to Accessibility.org, other common complaints about web accessibility are
The first step is almost always recognition. Recognizing that there are other people in the community with different needs, with various kinds of disabilities, is the first step of finding common ground. Internet is a vast universe we all inhabit. We read things online; we look up stuff on Google, Bing, etc., we play games, talk to our friends and families (especially in days of social distancing and continuous lockdowns), we work online, we shop online, we date online.
The second step is testing. Test your website. Having people with various kinds of disabilities onboard is the best solution, but even if hiring multiple testers is too much for your budget, you can start small: You can test your webpage yourself on different platforms, such as Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. You can use screen readers on different browsers to see if they pick all the content on each of them. You can use different devices to check if the button labels are working correctly or links are labeled, images have descriptions, etc.
For the year ahead, one good news about website accessibility in the US is that the Biden-Harris transition announced that they are dedicated to providing a website experience that is accessible to all. We hope that not only the e-commerce sites or other commercial websites but also the governmental institutions put their hands under the rock, and this will become the widespread practice for website accessibility among other institutions as well!
And, if you find an unnamed link, unlabeled button, or any other accessibility issue regarding the Supersense website, we appreciate your feedback.
We love to talk to people from the visually impaired and the blind community, people who want to help our mission, or people who just want to see if we can collaborate in any ways.
We are based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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