Website Accessibility, v2

What is Accessibility

Jon Kuperman

Jon Kuperman

Website Accessibility, v2

Check out a free preview of the full Website Accessibility, v2 course

The "What is Accessibility" Lesson is part of the full, Website Accessibility, v2 course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Jon discusses what it means to make a website or application more accessible, describes some similar fields, and provides some statistics of disabilities in the United States. One of the main goals of this course is to make the web usable for people with disabilities.


Transcript from the "What is Accessibility" Lesson

>> Accessibility is an interesting one because unlike some of the other subjects, it's a little bit vague. And I think sometimes people don't have a very clear understanding of what accessibility is. So I think one of the main takeaways I want to get out of this course is that when people talk about mobile app or web accessibility, they're talking about making those apps usable for people with disabilities.

I really liked this kind of quote from the web aim, which is a nonprofit that we'll talk about in a little bit. It says when websites and web tools are properly designed and coded, people with disabilities can use them. However, currently, many sites and tools are developed with accessibility barriers that make them difficult or impossible for some of us.

Making the web accessible benefits individuals, businesses, and society. So I liked a lot of that, I liked that. When we do things right, folks across a wide spectrum of different disabilities can get the most out of our site, can completely use it easily and productively. However, a lot of sites that exist today have major accessibility issues that prevent folks from using them.

And then I really liked at the end that it's like, making the websites accessible benefits everybody. I mean, it benefits your company, it benefits people with disabilities, it benefits power users. It benefits your regular majority users, everybody benefits from making accessible websites. I think some other reason that folks get a little bit confused is because accessibility reaches into a lot of other fields, or shares a lot of similarities.

So when I give talks on accessibility, I often get questions about these three other fields. So I kind of wanted to cover them really quick, and talk about where they share things, and then where they differ. So the first one is web performance. And specifically, web performance is when you think about making your mobile web app or your mobile native app really small and really fast, so that folks all over the world can use it.

So making an app that's very easily usable by folks on slower connections, or with slower devices is really similar to accessibility. But again, accessibility is about people with disability, so it's not exactly the same thing. Although it's a great thing to learn, a great thing to be doing.

Another one is internationalization. So that's the process of making your app translated and then usable in people's native languages. So if you have like a language switcher, or if you detect the system language and then automatically switch the content for users. Again, this is like really great, and it's important, and it helps a wider range of folks use your website.

But it's, again, not exactly what we're gonna be covering today. And then the third one is UI design. And specifically, UI design is when we talk about making your app really intuitive, easy to use, easy to understand. Things like that are really helpful, again, increasing your audience, increasing your user base, all those things are great.

But again, it's not exactly what we're into today. So for today, web accessibility means people with disabilities can use the web. I also really liked this quote, because for me the web is like a really special place. It's not a walled garden, it's very easy for folks to contribute, or carve out their own spaces, or create content.

So this quote really stood out to me where it says more specifically, web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the web. And then this part, and that they can contribute to the web. And I think it's important to keep in mind as we go through this workshop, that we're not just trying to meet some bare minimum.

We're not saying like, hey, we'll have this really robust app. And then we'll detect if a user has a disability, and if so, we'll give them a quick summary or a short version. We're really trying to make robust apps that people with disabilities can get the absolute most out of.

So being able to contribute, being able to upload their own media, being able to add comments. Being able to make edits anything that anyone else can do, everyone should be able to do, and that's really important to me. Another thing I find really interesting is when we start talking about the wide range of disabilities that we're going to cover in this course.

Just kind of the magnitude of it, so I had some statistics that have always really stood out to me. So in the United States, one in four, or a little bit over 26% of adults have some type of disability. And then as folks get older, it goes up.

So it goes from one and four to two and five by the time you're 65 years of age. 20% of people in the US report some type of hearing loss, and 29 million of them could benefit from hearing aids. So I want to as we go through this course, start thinking about different disabilities.

Internalizing them, and thinking about how that might affect the experience of browsing your application, or the web in general. And then learning about really cool and easy ways that we can make that experience way better, that's sort of the cycle of this course is going to take. 2.3% have visual disability, and 1 million people in the US alone are legally blind.

So we're thinking about folks, a large amount of folks with some disability. A lot of folks that report some kind of hearing loss, a lot of folks that report some kind of visual loss. And then 16% of people in the US have difficulties with their physical function. So again, we start thinking about, okay, if folks have some kind of physical functioning disability, what can we do to make our sights better for them?

And then around 8 million people in the US have an intellectual disability, including a really large amount of children. So again, we're kinda like looking at this empathizing with folks and thinking, okay, well, what can we do to make this a lot better? And again, kind of thinking of all the different types of disabilities, and how those would affect people using your app.

So mobile and physical disabilities versus cognitive and neurological disabilities, folks with some kind of hearing disability, or some kind of visual disability. And again, we're going to cover all of these in detail, just trying to get folks like kind of a high level idea of, yeah, we're talking about how to think about it, things like that.

One other interesting thing is that, I always do this like my kind of sales pitch for folks is that, the web by itself is extremely accessible. So I'm not sure how much folks know about, kind of how the web came to be. The standard's body is that work on things like the W3, but a lot of thought goes into this stuff.

And so I always use this kind of fun example, so this is what is considered by some to be the very first website. So it's on the CERN web address right now, and it's like this introduction to the World Wide Web called W3. A hypermedia information retrieval initiative was kind of funny, like a blast from the past, but if you look at this site, it's very basic.

It's just HTML, there's no CSS or JavaScript or anything. But if we start thinking about things, this site performance is very well against an accessibility audit, right? So the links you can move around to with your keyboard only. If we open a screen reader, which we'll go into later, it'll read all the links are labeled and are well reasoned about.

And so I think kind of the point that I want to drive home is if you're making a web app, and you were to just use HTML, it would be fairly accessible. Where we get into issues is when folks start adding a lot of CSS and a lot of JavaScript to provide this robustness, it becomes inaccessible in some ways.

And so I think one thing to kind of keep in mind is that we're not spending extra work making the web accessible, it's like we spent extra work making it a little inaccessible. And so this class is about kind of teaching you all how to counter that, and make it accessible again.

Because there's some really cool tools out there, you can have very complex workflows that are very accessible, which is very exciting for me. I always do this too as part of my selling point, so reasons developers should learn accessibility. Well, it's fun. I truly believe that not trying to be cheesy, I think that it's like really cool.

You start kind of empathizing with a lot of folks, you start using tools that you maybe haven't used before, such as a screen reader. And it's really fun, it's fun to check out your website, learn a lot more about how it's structured and how it functions, and then make small precise corrections that make it a lot better.

I don't know how many of you all have ever tried something, I remember the first time I used the Lynx browser, a text only web browser, right? So it doesn't render anything visual. And I started looking at all my websites, and it just dumps them out in this pure structure of headings, and links, and things like that.

And it really blew my mind, I was like, I really have to redo a lot of this stuff. Cuz you'll do something like, I don't want to use heading tags, I'll just use paragraphs. We'll give them a CSS class and then I'll make them large, or something like that.

And then over time you open it up in a text only browser, and it's really difficult to use. I find that experience a lot with accessibility as well, where I'll kind of do all these things. These little hacks, or little tricks, or whatever, just to kind of get through, and then I'll open it up in a screen reader and it's very difficult.

So I have a lot of fun kind of doing that, and it's really important to remember that a lot of these accessibility issues are caused by us. As developers, we make an experience with JavaScript and CSS that's inaccessible, and so we're kind of taking that back. Another thing is the human rights angle.

One, I'm just a really big proponent of making things accessible for folks with disabilities. They absolutely deserve to be able to use the web in the same way that folks without disabilities do. The other thing is I've had a lot of really great experiences over the years meeting folks that are either accessibility developers, or using the web as power users with some sort of disability.

And kind of getting to know them, getting to know their stories, and just working together to find really cool ways to make things happen. It's also a legal issue. It's becoming more and more so common place that you can get into some legal trouble for not having an accessible web presence.

We've seen a few lawsuits recently, mostly on government sites and things like that. But I do think the future, much like we have accessibility guidelines for brick and mortar buildings, we'll have the same thing for web and mobile apps as well. There's also some selfish reasons, like you can reach away larger audience.

We're talking about in many cases like 25% of the world population. So being able to make your site a little bit easier to use for people with disabilities could open you up to a lot more customers, a lot more users. It's really impactful too. So even a more selfish reason maybe is, I think it's a really cool thing, this kinda goes with the last one.

When you get a job as a developer, especially as you become more of a senior developer, I think that specializing is really important. Not that you have to do it all the time, but that you're kind of known maybe on your team or in your org for being really good at something.

I think that accessibility is a great thing to specialize in, it's really impactful. It means a lot to a lot of folks, and so taking some time to learn about accessibility and then kind of going into your work. For example, I know larger companies like Twitter and Adobe, they have whole accessibility organisations.

Where they want someone in each org to be like an accessibility shepherd, or the go to person for accessibility issues. So I think becoming that person can be really impactful on your career, and yeah, and really helpful.

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