Accessibility in Web Design: Webvisions Insights

Most people don’t think about accessibility in web design. Those that do think about it, think it’s either too big of a problem to solve, or something they can just include as a ‘quick fix’ at the end of a job.

So argued Derek Featherstone as part of his talk on Accessibility in Web Design, at Webvisions Portland in May. Instead of thinking about accessibility in this way, he explained, we should see accessibility simply as part of what good design means: making your site more accessible is good for people of differing abilities, but it also makes your site easier to use, for everyone.

How do we make site more accessible, then? It’s good to integrate accessibility into our workflows from the beginning, as at that point we can identify and solve issues that come up quickly and relatively cheaply. We can ask questions like, “how would someone with visual impairments interact with this site,” and ask those questions at a point where we can still make changes to the site we are creating.

There are also small things that can be done to increase a site’s accessibility, even in sites that have already been built. Adding image descriptions that accurately capture image content into ‘alt text’ fields on the backends of sites ensures that screenreaders can describe the content correctly and informatively for people with visual difficulties. Testing your site with only a keyboard so you can find and eliminate ‘keyboard traps’ for those who have physical impairments, and adding in downloadable transcripts for videos for those with hearing impairments are both simple and important things everyone can do to make their sites more accessible.

Accessibility is a big problem, then, but it is tackle-able. Starting to pay attention to accessibility, and to think about how it affects users that interact with our sites, is a great first step.

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