What Are You Doing Today To Make Your Website Accessible?

May 21, 2015

Imagine going to your favorite blog and seeing they’ve just posted a video entry instead of the usual text-based one. A lot of users might think it’s pretty cool, but other users, particularly those with a hearing impairment, might not think so. That’s because most videos on the web aren’t captioned, making them disappointing experiences for people who can’t hear.

Designing for the web means making sure we are designing for everyone who uses the web, including people who have disabilities. To help highlight the need for accessibility across the web, today we’re participating in Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD).

Global Accessibility Awareness Day is meant to draw attention to designing and building digitally accessible websites, software, and mobile applications that are usable by persons with disabilities. Web accessibility aims to create an equal opportunity user experience for those with visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities.

Co-founded by backend programmer Joe Devon and accessiblity professional Jennison Asuncion, GAAD began as a way to get web developers across the globe to try to raise awareness and know-how on making sites accessible. It has grown into a worldwide event embraced by companies, schools, governments, and various other organizations occurring on the third Thursday of May each year.

There are plenty of ways you can participate in GAAD, from organizing your own event to attending a local public one, or by doing something on your own. Designers, developers, usability professionals, and others are encouraged to take time seeing for themselves how digital accessiblty can affect the user experience by:

  • Going an hour without using your mouse. Use only your keyboard commands (arrow, enter, and spacebar keys, as well as tab/shift tab) to navigate websites you routinely visit. Are you able to figure out where you are at all times with a visible focus indicator? Can you do everything you want or need to on the page using only your keyboard?
  • Increasing your text size. Make sure your page is usable for visitors who are visually impaired. You can check this on your site by adjusting the zoom in your browser to 200% and ensuring that both content and functionality remain intact.
  • Making sure your colors contrast sufficiently. You can check this by using a color contrast analysis tool like this one or this one.
  • Using a screen reader. Put your website to the test by interacting with it using a screen reader and your keyboard controls. You’ll be able to determine how usable your site is for a visually impaired person.
  • Spread the word. Educate yourself on the principles of accessible web design and share what you learn with others in the field.

As you’re thinking about how you can make your own web content more accessible, check out the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 to see where you can make improvements.

For more ideas or to share what you are doing to contribute to Global Accessibility Awareness Day, join the GAAD Community.

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