- People often talk about how their applications are accessible 24/7 over the internet. That's not what we're talking about. That is simply availability. We're talking about accessibility for people with disabilities. We want to ensure that when we're designing, building, and creating content for our sites and applications that we're taking into account the needs of people with disabilities. That means we're going to make really smart choices in our work that ensure that people with different abilities can use what we create. We're talking about people with one of a handful of a handful of different disabilities: visual, auditory or hearing, mobility and dexterity, or even cognitive difficulties.
Each of these different type of issues can have a profound effect on how people use their computer and the web. Accessibility is the practice of ensuring that we create websites that can be used by anyone, regardless of their capabilities. Usability is a closely related concept. In the physical world we often think of usability as how easy it is to learn and use something. Think of your printer, for example. How easy is it to operate the touch screen on that printer? How easy is it to figure out what the error code means? How easy is it to load paper? If we think in broad terms user experience is the overall feeling and satisfaction that we create for someone that is trying to use our product.
Thinking about the printer again, the user experience includes everything from purchasing the printer, unpacking it, getting it set up for the first time, connecting it to your computer or to the network, troubleshooting ink cartridges or paper jams, all the way through to that feel that you get after you've printed. Does the printed page look the way the print preview did? Does the ink smudge when you touch it? All of those contribute to an overall experience with that printer. Usability is all about how easy each individual interaction is with the printer.
Accessibility would be all about how easy that interaction is for someone with a disability. It seems very straightforward and easy to draw a line between accessibility and usability. This isn't the case. Many people view accessibility as something that's for web developers only, that the user experience for someone that is blind is already horrible in the first place so why do we even think about UX for people with disabilities? Many people would like accessibility to simply be about following a set of rules as a designer, developer, or content creator.
Many people also say that ease of use for someone with a disability isn't truly an accessibility issue because it's a usability issue that affects everyone. This is often used as a justification to not address the accessibility issue. That's a pretty narrow view. The truth is when a usability issue exists in a site it affects everyone, but it tends to affect people with disabilities much more dramatically. What slows a person with full vision down by three seconds on a 30 second interaction might slow down a person that is blind for two or three minutes and make the interaction last five minutes.
These types of problems are accessibility issues because they mean they're preventing people with disabilities from completing the tasks that they're trying to complete.
- What is accessibility?
- Managing flow
- Ensuring proximity in your design
- Understanding how screen readers and voice recognition programs work
- Designing for hearing, vision, mobility, and cognitive issues
- Considering accessibility in layout
- Integrating accessibility into your content strategy