Imagine for a moment that you can’t see or have a physical impairment that means you can’t use a mouse or a keyboard. Would you still be able to work, shop or game?
The chances are, if you use software tools and/or the Internet you’d find your life significantly curtailed. Why? The vast majority of commercial software, apps and websites can’t be used with assistive technology.
Want to see for yourself? Turn off or remove your mouse/track pad and then try to use Twitter. Doesn’t work. So there’s a major social platform that can’t be accessed by a significant portion of the population.
Online accessibility is really important to me. Probably because a close family member is physically disabled and I have seen first hand the way accessible websites enhance their life and how non-accessible websites hinder it. Nothing brings home an issue more thoroughly than seeing someone you care about almost in tears and unable to do their own online grocery shopping because the shopping website doesn’t work with their browser.
The general lack of understanding around accessibility was brought home to me during the recent redesign of the Psoda User Interface. We were asked to explain why we made certain choices around structure, layout and colour. When we explained that it was to make Psoda as accessible as possible to people with disabilities it led to a robust, and at times frustrating, discussion on the benefits of being accessible versus “cool” design, which in turn has led to this blog post. Luckily for me the CEO fully embraces accessibility and believes “coolness” and accessibility are not mutually exclusive.
A few of the things we’ve done to make Psoda accessible are:
- All of the images have proper alt attributes associated with them – helpful for people who use screen readers
- You don’t need to have a mouse to use either the website or the tools
- We have a high contrast version of the tool
- We use in-page “popups” instead of opening new windows/tabs
- We’ve also done a bunch stuff to make AJAX more accessible: http://blog.psoda.com/?p=27
A number of countries have developed legislation around making websites accessible. You can find out more about that here: http://www.w3.org/WAI/Policy/
If you’d like to find out more about how you can make your website and software products more accessible I’ve included a couple of links below to some useful sites:
- http://www.w3.org/standards/webdesign/accessibility – These guys have written the web content accessibility guidelines, the international standard for accessible web design. You can download the guidelines and access loads of resources
- http://www.paciellogroup.com/resources/contrast-analyser.html – A downloadable tool to check the colour contrast on your website or tool
P.S. The title for this blog comes from a really moving video of a Scottish blind man *warning – tissues required*