Accessibility in Website and App Design: Why Baking it in from the Start is the Best Approach

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Accessibility is an often-forgotten aspect of website and app design, as it ensures that users with disabilities can access and use the content and functionality. Unfortunately, there are tools out there that claim to fix accessibility issues without any input from the customer and without making any changes to the code or design.

In this article, we will explore the issues with these so-called accessibility tools and why ‘baking’ accessibility in from the start is the best approach to creating accessible digital experiences.

The Problems with Accessibility Tools

These tools often suggest that they can be used to keep the client out of court, but the practical issue is that they don’t work and can even make the experience worse for users, particularly screen reader users.

For example, some of these tools use automated testing to identify accessibility issues, but they may not consider the context of the content or the user’s specific needs. Additionally, some tools may add unnecessary code or elements to the page, which can make the experience slower, clunky and generally worse for the user.

Screaming woman with her hands over her head
Photo by Julien L on Unsplash

One of the main problems with these tools is that they rely on automated testing to identify accessibility issues. While automated testing can be a helpful tool in identifying potential issues, it is not a substitute for manual testing and evaluation. Automated testing can only check for a limited set of issues and may not consider the context or the user’s specific needs.

Some tools may automatically add tags or attributes to images (even when the images do not need them). This can make the code more complex and harder to maintain, causing the website owner issues down the line.

The Importance of Baking Accessibility in from the Start

So, what is the solution? Our recommendation, as well as many experts in the field, is to ‘bake’ accessibility in from the start and ensure that the code is conformant to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Baking accessibility in from the start means that accessibility should be considered during the design and development process, ensuring the code is checked against the WCAG standards to meet the needs of users with disabilities.

Two professionals working together with their laptops
Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

When accessibility is considered during the design and development process, it is much easier to ensure that the code is conformant to WCAG standards. This is because the code is being created with accessibility in mind rather than trying to retroactively make an existing codebase accessible. Therefore, making the functionality and usability of the website seamless.

Why Accessibility is a Continuous Process

It is important to note that accessibility is not a one-time fix but rather a continuous process. The Web is constantly evolving, and so are the accessibility standards. Thus, ongoing testing and monitoring are essential.

A person using a Braille Reader
Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

As technology advances, new accessibility issues or solutions may arise, and it is important to stay up to date with the latest accessibility guidelines and best practices. (See the A11Y Project) Additionally, as users interact with a website or app, they may encounter new accessibility issues that need to be addressed.

To ensure that a website or app remains accessible, it is important to conduct regular testing and evaluation. This can include manual testing with users who have disabilities, as well as automated testing to identify potential issues.

It is also important to have a process in place for addressing and resolving accessibility issues as they arise. This can include working with developers to make code changes, updating design elements, and providing training and resources for users.

Conclusion

Accessibility is an important aspect of website and app design, and it is essential to ensure that users with disabilities can access and use your content and the desired functionality. While so-called accessibility tools may seem like an easy solution, what’s cheap today often leads to expenses down the road.

The best approach is to bake accessibility in from the start and ensure that the code is conformant to the WCAG standards. Accessibility is a continuous process. Thus, ongoing testing, monitoring, and addressing issues as they arise is crucial.

It is important to remember that accessibility is not just about compliance but is about providing equal opportunities and experiences for all users. Let’s create digital experiences that are inclusive and accessible for all.

Accessibility and SEO Services at Calman Design

At Calman Design, as a Deaf individual myself, I understand the importance of accessibility in Web design. I am dedicated to creating accessible digital experiences that meet the needs of users with disabilities.

In addition to my web design services, I also offer search engine optimisation (SEO) services to help increase the visibility of your website in search engine results. I use the latest techniques and best practices to ensure that your website is optimised for search engines and that it reaches your target audience.

My goal is to help you create a website that is not only accessible but also functional and visually appealing. I work closely with my clients to understand their unique needs and goals and to create a website that meets those needs.

If you are looking for web design or SEO services, please contact me at Calman Design. I would be happy to discuss your project and provide you with a free quote. Together, we can create an accessible and effective website that helps you achieve your business goals.

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4 April 2024