Accessibility on Web is mostly an after thought, a “Nice to have” feature. Accessibility in most cases, is not even considered as a feature, leave alone a necessity. If Web and Networks don’t need to be accessible then IT in general is treading the path of its predecessors – Making software so hard that we get back to hardware.
Accessibility is generic. Accessibility is not a feature, in fact its the user’s right.
In-accessibility in Physical world
Sharing with you all an incident which inspired this post: I had planned to visit a nearby temple after a period of one year. The temple used to frequently visited my devout mother-in-law, who has grown old and due to arthritis unable to travel out without the assistance of a Wheel chair. The temple was renovated and I(a reluctant visitor of temples) was asked to visit the temple for the divine blessings. On my visit, the first thing that struck me was that the Idols of deities, were now elevated by a height of at-least 2 floors. The only way to get the sightings and blessings(Darshan) was by steps. In one simple design, the deities were made in-accessible(Only in physical terms) to the devout old people with physical difficulties.
From this incident, I felt that it was so foolish of the administrators of the temple trust to simply overlook at their most obedient customers. Now, these are the customers who have volunteered to contribute financially in terms of donation. Could, they not sue the trust or administrators for not allowing them to access the structure, itself?
As the building rules and recommendations by the United Nations, “…building and planning legislation covering access for disabled people” all the buildings; commercial and residential are expected to adhere to the rules as a matter of compliance. In fact, every local government bodies have drafted rules to be strictly complied by the builders. In that scenario, any violation is an offence. Non-compliance of rules ends up as a cognizable offence. So, in the rule of law or court, we can sue the owners and builders for this offense.
If the above statements is true, can we sue the websites for not being accessible to people with disabilities?
In a recent twitter feed, an article on the case of Winn-Dixie case the residents of Florida District had sued Winn-Dixie for creating a website which was inaccessible to visually impaired. In this scenario, is it not time for every company website especially the ones which are for public service to be wary of future cases against their sites for being “In-Accessible”?
Implementation of WCAG 2.0
In the Design-Thinking process, we emphasize on Empathy for the users as the key step towards building better designs. I would propose using one or more additional personas where the users with disability. For ex: Consider a persona: Steve, an IT geek who likes to do his work on his own, meticulous and like to keep up to date with the latest podcasts. He is visually impaired.
At the core is the implementation of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. By implementing these guidelines, we could make web content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities. Key board interaction, Visual Design, Touch Interfaces etc. are some of the design considerations while developing the screens. Usually, the responsibility of the screens to be made accessible is entrusted on Developers. Instead, it should be driven by the designers and implemented in collaboration with the developers.
Buy-in from the Leadership
Company leadership is the key. No amount of discussion or argument matters unless there is a business case for investing in sites being accessible. “Companies are in for business and not for Charity or Research” – said a senior executive in a recent presentation. So, as designers it is our prerogative to put forth a business case for it. Some of the points which could sway the management are:
- Accessible websites are more usable, and consequently they get more traffic. Additionally, better user experiences result in lower bounce rates, higher conversions, and less negative feedback, which in turn typically make accessible websites rank higher in search engines.
- Like assistive technology, web crawlers (such as Googlebot) leverage HTML to get their information from websites, so a well marked-up, accessible website is easier to index, which makes it easier to find in search results.
- There are a number of potential risks for not having an accessible website, one of which is accessibility lawsuits.
- Small businesses in the improve the accessibility of their website may be eligible for a tax credit in some countries. ( Reference: DIY Web Accessibility Blueprint )
SAP has given emphasis on the aspects of accessibility in their experience SAP guidelines but lack the thrust for its inclusion. As a matter of fact, there is no primary tag for me to post the blog on Accessibility. I still have discussions with managers if the application needs to work on Mobile. Accessibility, “Well, our sites are used for people who are fully able-d”. My thought at that moment was, ” Fully Able-d? Is anyone fully able-d in this world?
The opinions expressed in this blog are purely personal