Web Accessibility: are we there yet?
It took a long time for Web Accessibility to become a key topic in the digital community, but are we really there yet?
28 years later, despite all efforts, we’ve still got a long way to go.
What about accessibility? It's fair to say that we’ve made good progress since those early days. User Experience is another trending topic. People are more aware of the importance of clean code which can adapt to countless devices and resolutions. Assistive technologies have become more and more available and affordable, if not free. Things like switches, screen readers and braille keyboards allow disabled people to do things that were almost unthinkable to Tim and co. back then.
Warning: there's a 'but' coming.
Making the keyboard navigation accessible can be pretty difficult if it’s not considered at the planning stage. This is because if the markup is not semantic, then the structure can't easily be parsed by assistive technology, like screen readers. Also, images, buttons and forms that are improperly labeled are often unclear for blind users and there’s generally poor error recognition and prevention for any wrong submitted data. Most of the time, companies try to fix these issues at the very end. Sometimes, even after the service is released, which is about as useful as testing a product after having spent all the budget and placed it on the market.
At last, accessibility is no longer just an afterthought
The truth is, it's tricky to be an accessibility expert. The whole situation is quite challenging. We see established organisations barely considering accessibility at all: just a few basic checks are enough, coupled with the 'accessibility statement' on a page to state that yes; their website has lots of accessibility issues, but they’ll fix it all one day.
Despite that, slowly but steadily we’re starting to put users’ needs, desires, and struggles first. Usability tests are spreading more than ever, UX Consultants are starting to include people with disabilities in their personas, and Project Managers are scheduling accessibility audits during the build of the website.
We just need to face the uncomfortable truth that there are still people struggling to do even the simplest tasks, even though we now have the tools to make their lives easier. It's a matter of applying them consistently, despite low budgets, short deadlines or whatever obstacles get in the way.
Getting back to that old idea of inclusivity
Talk of a new awareness might not even be correct. In fact, it's just about getting back to that old idea of inclusivity where it all began, and the Internet was a sort of virtual frontier with random pages that held links and a few images at best.
Tim Berners-Lee may not be so happy about how things have been going so far, but we can be optimistic for the future. There's a phrase from The Interaction Design Foundation which is worth mentioning:
"It's easy to keep doing things the way they've always been done. Change can be scary and challenging to grapple with, though it is something we need to become increasingly comfortable with, considering the rapidly changing environments we find ourselves in."
So, let's embrace that change and help the people who need us the most.
Take a look at our Accessibility evaluations and testing services to see where we can help.