You’re (Probably) Doing Digital Accessibility Wrong

You’re (Probably) Doing Digital Accessibility Wrong

Thirty years after the historic passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the landmark legislation that transformed the US’s workplaces and common spaces for the better, so much of our lives have moved out of the physical world and into the digital one. The urgency of equality — and the need to ensure that web design and development consider digital accessibility and the user experience of those with disabilities — is at an all-time high. Nearly one in five Americans has some form of disability. Globally, the number is higher than 1 billion. Although equal access to community spaces — both in the physical and virtual world — is a clear human right, for millions of Americans, the web is broken. It’s a place packed with frustrating stumbling blocks and disorienting design, and it’s in dire need of a UX overhaul. This is evidenced in the WebAIM Million study conducted last year. The Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University conducted an evaluation of the top million webpages focusing on the automatically detectable issues. Not surprisingly, the results are dire. The study found an average of nearly 60 accessibility errors on each of the site’s homepages, which was virtually the same amount of errors detected when the same evaluations were run, six months prior. The WebAIM Alexa 100 study didn’t fare much better. Across the top 100 homepages of the most trafficked websites, the study found an average of approximately 56 errors per page (including highly pervasive color contrast errors). This all amounts to an incredible number of digital access barriers. It’s no wonder plaintiffs are filing lawsuits in record numbers. Over the past two years, alone, there have been nearly 5,000 ADA Title III website accessibility lawsuits filed in federal court. There’s still a lot of work to be done. No matter where you are in your accessibility journey, here are some common mistakes to avoid, as well as some of the often-overlooked accessibility considerations that will have a meaningful impact for your site visitors. Test With People If you’re creating inclusive websites, it’s crucial that you expand your user pool of testers to include individuals with disabilities or, at a minimum, subject matter experts versed in the many nuances of navigating the digital world with assistive technologies (AT), such as screen readers. At best, automated testing tools can only detect about one third of the potential issues One of the most common misperceptions about accessibility is that, if you use an automated testing tool, you can find out everything that is wrong with your site. At best, automated testing tools can only detect about one third of the potential issues. Even in the case of the WebAIM Million study, the number of issues uncovered only consisted of automatically detectable issues. It’s safe to assume, the number of issues that actually exist on the web pages evaluated in the study are largely understated. Accessibility testing might seem simple on the surface, but usability testing leveraging assistive technologies is complex and multi-faceted. Motor, visual, cognitive and auditory impairments can all impact user experience, as can the specific AT and browser combination being used. To gain a true understanding of how usable your site is with these tools, you can’t just rely on automated testing. If All You Plan To Do Is Implement A Toolbar, Think Again Doing something is certainly better than doing nothing, and we should all applaud anyone that is taking steps to improve the accessibility of their digital assets.  » Read More

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