Consider this: Less than 10% of the word uses IE9. An even smaller fraction uses IE8. However, there are currently >14% of the world that browses the Internet has a disability including vision and motor skills.
Now, ask yourself this. When such a small percentage is using these legacy browsers do agencies and corporations spend development time to cater to these audiences but then totally ignores those with disabilities?
The development time it takes to code a site to support IE9 (or even worse IE8) can be substantial. The time it takes to support people with disabilities is actually quite smaller and has the added benefit of improving site SEO (win!) and can make your navigation better (double win!) to browse because you’ll code it better.
It’s most likely the case that you haven’t considered developing your site and include support for disabled people. That’s understandable. As developers, we have it ingrained to check our site for browser issues. We’ve had it drilled into our heads how important it is to support people behind the corporate wall who’s angry IT managers won’t let them use anything past IE8 because of activeX or some other made up reason. But where’s the advocate for those who want to buy our widgets and give us money but can’t even browse our site? Furthermore, we don’t know all the issues with making the site better for these people.
It’s actually a lot easier than you think. If you do these minimum steps you’ll make a better site for everyone.
- Caption or provide transcripts for video and audio content. Doing this will not only benefit your users who can’t see/hear but also help your SEO. SCORE!
- Provide alternative text for important non-text content. You should be doing this for all your images anyway, but it’s doubly important for those with vision impairments.
- Use headers. This is a given also. It provides order to your content, but also provides added functionality to screen readers.
- Do not use graphics to represent text when plain text is suitable. This was an old technique from the oldie times but is really passe and not necessary these days.
- Do not use unnecessarily small text. You should keep text in a size that is easily readable.
- Use punctuation. This enables voice synthesizers to use the correct cadence and also sound more understandable.
- Use descriptive link names rather than “click here.” For those who use screen readers, they get presented with a list of links. If the link text is only “click here” then there’s no context for what the link does. Imagine how that feels for the user?
- Use enough contrast between text and backgrounds so the text stands out and is readable. For sighted people with poor vision, this can be very difficult.
- Do not use color alone to convey information. People who can’t see will not get the message.
- Use an online tool to test your website’s accessibility.
Furthermore, ensure that a user can complete and submit forms. Every element should have a table and that label should be associated to the correct form element. As an added convenience, the sure should be able to submit the form and recover from for errors.
Here’s some videos to help drive the point home about making your site accessible to those with disabilities.
In summary, this is something all of us as developers of the web should be cognizant of. The Internet is supposed to be a great equalizer and we are failing that mission by ignoring those who most need it’s power. We should all redouble our efforts to push for a more equal Internet and address the needs of those who need our help.
And, to just drive the point home a little more, take a look at a site that totally throws accessibility out the window.