Hello world! Today I’d like to talk about an aspect of web that is often overlooked, accessibility.

Most of what I’ve written about here are basic principles and common knowledge, my aim is to bring it to your attention.

Let’s get started.

The percentage of people with a form of disability is estimated at between 10%-20%

Sure, not all of these are necessarily web users, but by ignoring the needs of this group of users, we’re not creating much of an even playing field, much like the graphic above (hehe).

The largest portion of users with disabilities affecting the web are those that are visually impaired or blind.

They rely on assistive technologies such as magnifiers and screen readers to help them get around.

There’s a lot that we can do as designers and developers to make this easier and ensure that all users can access all information on our websites.

The W3C covers accessibility extensively and there are plenty of other great resources out there from the BBCRNIB, WebAIM and more.

Here are a just a few items to include in your checklist:

  • Define the default language in the HTML element on your website
  • Use proper meta tags
  • Make your navigation accessible by using headings (<h1>,<h2> and so on)
  • Structural elements like lists are good
  • Use lowercase elements and attributes
  • Label all form elements and use validation/error messages
  • Include meaningful alternative text on all images
  • Use good contrast between background colours and text
  • Make links recognisable by underlining or placing them in a different colour
  • Allow content to flow in a logical sequence so that it can be navigated using the Tab key

If you’ve made use of the wealth of helpful resources out there and feel you’ve done a good job at making your website accessible, you might want to test it out.

WAVE’s Web Accessibility Tool can play a key role here, highlighting what you can improve on and also what you’ve done well. No errors? Take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back. There are also a number of great add-ons for browsers like the Accessibility Toolbar and Wave Toolbar for Firefox to help you perform some additional testing.

Of course, we shouldn’t rely on these tools to determine whether our website is über accessible, so some feedback from real users of your site would be great. We could gather this by including a request for comments or suggestions on our accessibility statement, situated somewhere on our website.

Here’s one I made earlier. Man, I miss Art Attack. Blue Peter, I was never a big fan of 🙂

Accessibility statements are useful to let your users know what you’re doing for them (and what you’re not able to do) as well as ways that they can improve their user experience, whether it’s through their choice of browser or adjusting some settings to make the site more usable for them. Worth an include.

Farewell, friends!

Written by Anita Mander, developer at ExtraMile Communications.

At ExtraMile we try to take an hour out each week to look around us at what others do and to gain inspiration and to admire people’s creativity. Each post in this series is one staff member’s take on the world of web, design and things online. We hope you enjoy it.