The worrying state of our knowledge on accessibility

When I say ‘our’, I refer to us as an industry. A great, innovative industry that builds the web as we know it.

But unfortunately we don’t build for everyone.

We think we do, I mean, it’s the Internet, everyone has the Internet. Well, pretty much, but not necessarily in the forms that we view and use it.

As designers and developers who build for the web, I’m sure the vast majority of us know about screen readers, users who have javascript disabled, and people with older browsers.

That’s why, when I see a tweet like this one:

@wdtuts: Quite surprised by how many of our readers seem reluctant to make their sites accessible #challengeaccepted

I get rather worried that it paints a picture that if you don’t build your site using ‘em’ instead of ‘px’, your site isn’t as accessible as it could be.

And this is from a site that aims to help teach designers and developers how to build things on the web.

Out of all of the possible issues with accessibility on the web, things like ARIA Landmark Roles, alt text on images, unobtrusive javascript and contrast ratios, using ems instead of pixels really wasn’t on my radar.

This is why things like The Accessibility Project are very important. It’s a great repository of information, and a community driven effort to make learning about creating accessible websites much easier than Googling and scouring through pages and pages of documentation.

If you want to make sites that everyone can use, I suggest we get some collective reading and learning done.

And if there’s things you know that aren’t on there, it’s time to contribute.

Either way, get cracking.

One thought on “The worrying state of our knowledge on accessibility

  1. Thanks Westley, this sort of stuff needs pointing out. Sites now have more and more slide-ins, fade-ins, transitions and “cool” stuff… but are they accessible?

    Take a simple lightbox plugin as an example: If I open it, can I tab into it? Can I tab to the close button? Does focus return to the link clicked when I close it?

    Other gotchas:

    1. Can I open and close your drop-down menu with the keyboard?
    2. Can I clearly see what element has focus? Don’t hide :focus outlines
    3. Do all of your form fields have labels?
    4. Use buttons for actions, links for… linking

    To benefit people using screen readers too, when you click to animate something in are you giving it focus too? Otherwise how do they know anything’s happened? It might be 500 tab presses away at the bottom of the DOM.

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