The web and technological advances create new opportunities and have the potential to remove communication barriers many face in the physical world. Yet millions of people can’t fully reap the benefits of those opportunities because of inaccessibile digital products.
Governments (including the United States) have made strides in implementing or updating regulations and policies that reflect the modern day reality that people of all abilities use the web and digital products. These regulations ensure that people with disabilities do not face discrimination and have equal access and opportunity to use the web and digital products.
While regulations provide a baseline, industry guidelines can provide more context and direction for accessibility in UX. Features like screen readers, text-to-speech, closed captioning and sticky keys are commonplace thanks to established industry guidelines.
Below are helpful resources that can provide a blueprint for UX teams to create the best, most accessible products:
What: W3C is the international community that develops web standards. It is made up of different stakeholders in web accessibility, such as industry and disability organizations, government, accessibility research organizations and more. While not a government body, W3C is the most comprehensive and proactive effort in the world to ensure the web is accessible and those who develop for it have the tools and knowledge they need.
How: The W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative researches and tests strategies for web accessibility that organizations can implement. It also publishes resources to support development teams in understanding and implementing those strategies.
Learn more: W3C offers perspective videos that showcase a variety of situations and tools for web accessibility.
What: WCAG is a godsend for anyone who creates and develops content for the web or other digital products. The 2.1 guidelines were released in June 2018 as the highly anticipated update to WCAG 2.0, which was released in 2008.
How: WCAG is organized around four principles, often referred to with the acronym POUR:
- Perceivable – Can users perceive the content through more than one sense?
- Operable – Can users navigate the content and interface?
- Understandable – Can users understand the content; is the interface consistent enough to avoid confusion?
- Robust – Can the content be consumed by a wide variety of user agents (browsers, assistive technology, etc.)?
What: WebAIM distills the WCAG guidelines into a checklist for creators of web content. Please note: This checklist and other resources reflect WCAG 2.0. We will update this article when resources reflect WCAG 2.1.
Auditing and Various Tools: Auditing is an essential part of ensuring products are accessible. Third-party organizations or consultancies that specialize in accessibility can execute thorough audits on sites and applications, provide remediation for current products, help organizations acquire VPATs and recommend best practices for future development.
While there are lots of online tools and resources that claim to help ensure UX accessibility for websites or products, those tools can only advise to a point. It is best to work with a partner for the most thorough and comprehensive accessibility testing.
Accessibility in UX is more than checking a box, it’s about designing products that are usable for everyone to the greatest extent possible. The massive quantity of guidelines and resources to consider can be overwhelming and depend on variable factors, such as the specific industry or users’ needs. Working with a knowledgeable team to determine your exact needs and operationalize accessibility is the best way you can emulate UX best practices around accessibility.
This is part two of a three-part series on accessibility.
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