Web accessibility

Accessibility signRecently, I had the opportunity to sit in a web accessibility sharing session with Victor Tsaran, our in-house web accessibility guru. I’ve always thought I tried my best to make sure things I could influence and create were accessible; but this was an amazing, eye-opening session.

You cannot fully comprehend how much web accessibility (specifically the lack of it) can impact your users until you’ve seen someone work it out. We all know about not using display: none because it won’t be available to screen readers, or labeling forms properly. We know about the alt attribute and the need to correctly mark up the page.

But personally, after actually seeing how someone who is reliant on screen readers browses the web, everything looks different, more meaningful, somehow. To me, it was something like the first time I opened up the HTML file regurgitated by Microsoft Word in Notepad: so this is how it is! Your HTML document is simply that: a document. It has meaning, it has structure.

  • A form without labels? “Edit text, blank. Edit text, blank. Edit text, blank. Choose one, popup button. Choose one, popup button. Choose one, popup button. Submit button.”
  • Page without headings? Endless tabbing through.
  • Non-descriptive links? “Click here. Click here. Here. Click here. This. Click here.”

A well-coded page? Simple, functional, easy to navigate, and beautiful. In contrast, a horribly-coded page was as painful as Internet Explorer 6 (and probably as painful to correct).

We had no video or recording of the session, but I found a youtube video that gives you an inkling of how screen readers work:

And I bring you a two interesting blogs on accessibility: AccessibilityTips.com and Web Axe: practical web design accessibility tips. I’ve known the former for a good while, and the latter just recently but quite immediately bookmarked.

So does that mean W.nu is accessible? Sadly, no. I will need to sit down and work this through, but what motivation!