Do you spend your spare time at the beach surfing the waves until the sun sets? Maybe you prefer to watch the surfers as you enjoy basking in the sun. Maybe the beach isn’t your “thing” and after a hard days work, you prefer to channel-surf to clear your mind. We all do some surfing. In reality, there is a good chance that we spend more time surfing the web than we do surfing anything else. This is where web accessibility strongly affects surfers—web surfers (in other words, all of us).
We keep hearing our websites and documents need to be accessible. We are told users with disabilities will benefit from an accessible website and that it’s a violation of civil rights laws not to give equal access to every individual, but how do we do it? We recently met with some of our friends at the Southern Association for the Visually Impaired (SAAVI). In the video below, SAAVI staff members Jeremy and Shannon share their thoughts about how many of us are affected by website accessibility.
Of course, the examples SAAVI provides are just a few of the ways an accessible (or inaccessible) website affects website users. To see someone actually be affected by web accessibility, check out the video below. The University of California, San Francisco shared an example of a blind user surfing the web. You will see how adding elements to a web page will either completely confuse someone such as a blind user or if added accessibly, will give them the same experience as a sighted user.
Although blind users may be the most common disabled user referred to when talking about website accessibility, there are many other types of disabilities affected by website accessibility. For example, someone with multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease may have limited or no ability to use a mouse. If your website is not keyboard accessible, finding what they need will be difficult if not impossible. And did you know that accessibility features such as keyboard navigation affect more than just disabled users?
Have you ever tried to view a website on your mobile device but were not able to tap the button on the link you were attempting to access? You may have tried to zoom in on the link only to find that the page wouldn’t actually zoom in enough for you to click the link. This would be a total wipe out. Zooming in to make the button accessible is actually an accessibility requirement. An inaccessible website affects many disabled users as well as a wide variety of others.
Color is another accessibility feature of a website that affects many users. I have a cousin who goes by the nickname of Red. Red obtained his nickname because of his red hair. Ironically, Red is color blind, so he can’t actually see the color red. Red told me how confused he gets when he comes across a horizontal traffic light.
Normally, when Red is driving, he knows if the top light is lit, he needs to stop and if the bottom light is lit, he may proceed. As you can imagine, a rare encounter with a horizontal traffic light makes for quite a nervous ride for both Red and the other drivers at the intersection.
Now let’s imagine Red is visiting a website and trying to win an all-expense paid trip to the beautiful island of Maui where he can avoid traffic lights and spend his time surfing waves instead. All he has to do to win this much-needed vacation is to select the red button. Here are the buttons Red sees to choose from:
If you are not color blind, the buttons look like these below:
How unfortunate is it for Red when he selects the button on the right! This may be an extreme example; however, the same concept applies when we use color on our website or in a document.
Video subtitles is one of the most obvious examples of an accessibility feature required by accessibility guidelines. Subtitles are an amazing feature to have. Whether you are deaf, have kids, or view video content in public places, you have most likely used this feature numerous times. For a deaf person, it’s the only way to view video content. For a parent, it’s extremely convenient when your children are busy giggling (no one wants to make happiness be quiet, right?). For college students trying to watch an instructional video in the library, it shows respect for others who are trying to cram for their exam that starts in 10 minutes. Oh, and be sure those subtitles are accurate! Don’t just rely on automated captioning. We wouldn’t want that student failing his class because the subtitle said the answer was x but the audio said the answer was y.
Can all of your users access everything on your website? Are your colors hindering their ability to navigate your web pages effectively? Is everything accessible using only a keyboard? Do your videos include subtitles or transcripts? If you answered no or I don’t know to any of these questions, you need to call School Webmasters right away!
Be sure your website is like a party wave that allows all users an opportunity to hang ten.