Hello! Another year is coming to an end. Since this year is the 30th anniversary of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), I came up with the idea for an advent calendar to share an accessibility tidbit every day for the first 24 days of December.
Accessibility is a very huge and ever changing field with many different specializations. So it’s not possible to share all information in one article.
There are some things that you can easily make accessible by yourself. However, in order to integrate accessibility into your projects successfully, it’s strongly advised that you work with an expert to help you with accessibility. Like with any other fields, it takes time, and training, and experience to become an expert in accessibility.
The list below is not comprehensive. The goal of this article is to help you better understand how accessibility benefits both your business and customers and why it is important to take action on making accessibility part of your daily business activities.
This page will be updated every day from December 1 to December 24. Check it out daily to get a new tidbit.
Day 01: ADA 30th anniversary
This anniversary is important to me both as an accessibility expert and a deaf person. I would say that many things have improved in terms of accessibility, but there’s still much more work to do – as explained in my article on the ADA 30th anniversary.
Day 02: The world’s largest minority
Disabled people make up the world’s largest minority of 1.85 billion people, according to The Return on Disability Group. It’s larger than populations of China and EU combined! They control over $1.9 trillion in annual disposable income. Not to mention their families and friends that add another 3.4 billion potential consumers. Together those groups control over $13 trillion in annual disposable income! That’s why accessibility is so important!
Day 03: International Day of Persons with Disabilities
It is an international observance that is promoted by the United Nations annually on December 3 since 1992. When thinking about disabilities, often a wheelchair icon comes to mind. However, disabilities can be not just physical (which are mostly visible) but also visual, hearing, and cognitive (which are mostly invisible). So a wheelchair icon doesn’t represent all disabilities. Accessibility needs vary depending on a type of a disability.
Day 04: Accessibility is a team effort
There are 3 most common misconceptions about web accessibility: it’s for blind people only; it’s based on coding only; it’s a sole responsibility of technical people. Many organizations often treat it as an afterthought. Accessibility is not the one time thing to check off but an ongoing process involving all team members: managers, developers, designers, writers, media producers, and so on. It needs to be treated as part of all business activities.
Day 05: The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
Short for the WCAG, it is an internationally accepted standard for digital accessibility that keeps evolving. The goal is to ensure that disabled people can perceive, navigate, and understand content using any current and future technologies.
Day 06: Semantic markup
The strong foundation for web accessibility is semantic markup. It can help you not only prevent many accessibility issues but also make web maintenance easier. Make sure to use as many native HTML elements as possible. They have more semantic meaning than non-semantic tags like DIVs or SPANs.
Day 07: Color contrast
It is one of the most common accessibility issues – not just on the web, but also in print. 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women have color vision deficiency (color blindness). But it also affects all of us. So it’s important to ensure good color contrast between text and it’s background and not to convey important information by color alone.
Day 08: Plain language
When writing content for general audience, make sure that it is written as clearly and effectively as possible. Especially when it comes to important technical, medical, or legal information. Plain language does not dumb down words, but makes it easy for readers to process information. It improves both user experience and accessibility.
Day 09: The ALT attribute
If your website has images, it’s important that they have alternative descriptions. All image tags should include an ALT attribute. The attribute either includes important visual information about the image or is empty if the image is decorative. An CMS should include an ALT feature to enable content producers to add alternative descriptions to images.
Day 10: Captions and transcripts
I personally experience accessibility issues as a deaf person when media lacks professional captions and transcripts. My 8-minute TEDx talk video (with English captions and subtitles in 6 other languages) explains why high quality speech to text access is important for both businesses and deaf users. Also, it’s not enough to just add text. There are many quality standards to consider in order to make captions look professional and easy to read.
Day 11: Telecommunications
Many businesses make a phone number field required and expect all customers to reach them via voice calls only. It’s both a bad user experience and accessibility practice. My article explains the issue with voice calls and how it affects both businesses and customers.
Day 12: Sign language
Like with spoken languages, sign language varies from country to country. Even American Sign Language (ASL) is totally different from British Sign Language (BSL)! If you check out videos of fingerspelling in ASL and RSL (Russian Sign Language), you will see the difference.
Day 13: Accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing people
There are 466 million of us deaf and hard of hearing people in the world. The vast majority don’t know sign language. Not everyone can lipread or benefit from hearing devices. Learn more about our various hearing and communication abilities and needs.
Day 14: Social media
Learn how you can improve accessibility for your social media. Some accessibility components are a responsibility of the tool creators, but other components can be made accessible only by post authors.
Day 15: CAPTCHA
Many of you experience frustrations with CAPTCHAs when logging in or filling out forms. Not only it’s annoying, but also it’s bad user experience and accessibility. The WCAG explains in detail about inaccessibility of CAPTCHA and alternatives to visual Turing tests on the web.
Day 16: Testing
Your team needs to test accessibility early and often – just like you test other project components. It’s advised to do a combination of 3 testing methods: using accessibility evaluation tools, performing manual checks, and testing with disabled users.
Day 17: Keyboard
There are people who cannot use a mouse or a trackpad or prefer to use a keyboard to navigate the internet. So it’s critical that content is keyboard-friendly by allowing tabbing and showing a keyboard focus indicator.
Day 18: PDF
Whenever possible, avoid creating PDFs for on-screen reading. First, PDFs are hard to read on mobile devices. Second, if not done correctly, they cause accessibility problems. Nielsen Norman Group explains why PDFs are unfit for human consumption.
Day 19: Events
It’s not enough to just invite disabled people to events. Events as well as event websites and media recordings need to be accessible to us. It is a complicated project that would benefit from an experienced consultant to help you with an optimal event accessibility strategy.
Day 20: Education
Many disabled people can get good education. However, not all educational institutions are accessible to them. I have firsthand experience with education as a deaf person from grade school to graduate school. Learn more about how to improve accessibility in education.
Day 21: Employment
Despite having great skills and/or education, 70% of disabled people are unemployed or underemployed. Many of those who are employed, often experience discrimination in workplace. I have experienced this firsthand. Learn how to improve workplace accessibility.
Day 22: Nothing about us without us
It’s a term used in the disability community. Often non-disabled people make decisions for us and come up with solutions that don’t work for us – based on their wrong assumptions about us. One example is signing gloves for deaf people. Want to be an ally to disabled people? Please ask us directly for advice. Consider involving users and subject matter experts with disabilities in all accessibility related projects.
Day 23: Automatic accessibility tools
It’s the question I’m often asked. I’m sorry to disappoint, but there’s no magic wand to make everything accessible instantly. Accessibility overlay tools do not solve web accessibility issues. Automated testing tools cannot find and fix all accessibility errors. Auto captions are not the best accessibility practice. If there was a magic solution, it would have already been offered by all accessibility experts. Accessibility is a very complicated process and needs to be run and maintained by humans.
Day 24: Treat accessibility as the forethought and keep maintaining it all the time
Many tell me how expensive accessibility is and look for free or cheap resources. It’s often not a good idea. Accessibility is not charity – it’s the cost of doing business. You can save much more time and money if you invest into accessibility from the beginning.
Thank you for reading my article!
Let’s make the world more accessible to disabled people!
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I have a unique combination of 20+ of professional expertise in design, technology, and accessibility and personal experience with deafness.