The First Two Steps to AccessibilityMonday, May 10, 2021
Photo by Robert Ruggiero on Unsplash
First of all, I highly recommend Marcy Sutton's Testing Accessibility at https://testingaccessibility.com.
At the end of her course (conducted via email), she asks what the first two things you would do to fix accessibility at your company. Here is what I thought of.
Many organizations ignore accessibility for years. When this happens, there are three big problems that result. The first is that the code base fails to address even minor accessibility concerns. The second is that management is afraid to broach the subject, fearing that even the smallest gains will come at great cost. The third problem is that there is no organizational agreement to even address usability for differently-abled users.
That said, here are the first two things I would do to address accessibility in a code base:
- Ensure all pages have headings and elements are enclosed in aria regions. It's a change that can be made easily and without affecting the functionality or workflow of the product. It's a quick win and dramatically helps users to navigate the site via heading or region. Lack of coherent markup in this area is one of the first turnoffs to screen reader users.
- Ensure that keyboard focus has a consistent focus outline. This requires multiple teams to get involved around something that is simple to teach and test. This helps undo bad design culture (like disgust around the outlines that appear when clicking with a mouse), and it instills the importance of accessibility across the organization.
The first is an easy sell because the risk is low and the reward is high. I would show developers videos of people using the product with a screen reader, explaining how much it helps to have headings.
The second suggestion builds upon the first. It is also an easy change, but gets more teams involved in the fun. This will necessarily start the pattern of having training, education, and cultural change.
These two items together will make a distinctive product enhancement, but ultimately, they start the path on the hardest high-impact item: company development culture.