July 13, 2020
Web developers are faced with a daunting list of things to think about when creating a website: tech stack, website responsiveness, design, SEO, page load time etc but one area I’ve noticed often disappears into void is accessibility. If your website fails to meet accessibility standards it means a percentage of the population can’t access your content meaning you unintentionally lose users. A whooping 15% of the global population have some form of disability, and 54% of those with a disability try to access online content, so why isn’t this at the forefront of our minds when we are building a web application?
In my years of software development I think I’ve run into the complete spectrum of web developers in regards to how they approach website accessibility: There’s the engineers who keep accessibility in mind whenever they work on a web app, the ones where it becomes a focus at certain points of building an application but then fades into the background, the devs who will add alt tags to images… sometimes, and then those that simply don’t seem to care. And I’ll be the first to admit, at the beginning of my career accessibility wasn’t a focus of mine as my head was so preoccupied with the billion other things I was learning that I didn’t have the headspace to absorb it. However, as I move forward, I’ve realized more and more just how crucial this is to any web application.
We have all experienced those infuriating websites where the page loads too slowly or the navigation sucks. Now imagine if you threw a disability into the mix and tried to access websites that most of us probably use without abandon. What may be a good experience for one user might be terrible for the next simply because we’ve neglected to create a site that caters to the needs of all of our users.
We don’t set out to make websites that only some people can use so why do so many of us continue to overlook accessibility as a crucial part of the development process. We’ve all heard the term mobile-first, perhaps we need to switch our thinking to ‘accessibility first’. Without it, we’ve already lost a large chunk of potential users.
Over the coming months I’ll be writing posts to go more in-depth into various disability types, how we create bad experiences for those users, and the simple modifications we can make to our applications so that they are accessible by all.