Chances are you have heard the term “accessibility” more and more over the last few years when discussing developing an application or website. In addition, you might have heard that accessibility ensures people with disabilities can work with the application.
But when you ask different people what accessibility is, you might get different answers. Some will say it is “Necessary.” Others will respond with “Expensive” or “A challenge.” You might even hear, “We, or our clients, do not need it.”
Ask that same question to us, and we will respond with the following answer: “It is simply the right thing to do.”
In this post, we want to introduce you to accessibility. But it is a subject that is much too big to handle in one article, so we will write follow-up articles that will be posted later.
What is accessibility?
Let’s start by talking about what accessibility is. It is designing and developing your website or application in such a way that you allow everyone in your target audience to be able to work with it.
This definition does not only mean that every user in your target audience should be able to use the application, but also people who require assistive technologies (like a screen reader, braille reader, or dark mode on their OS) without additional hindrance.
If you have a user who might be hearing impaired and you don’t use any audio in your application, no changes might be needed for this user. But if you have a user who might be blind and is relying on a braille reader to use your website or application, the site has to be built so that the braille reader can access your product and interpret it correctly for its user.
You might then understand why building a successfully accessible product is more than creating a usable design. It also means programming the site in a manner that supports assistive technologies.
To make it accessible.
Making your product accessible might sound like a lot of work, and it sounds expensive. Luckily this is usually not the case. When a new website or application is being designed and developed, following industry-standard design and development guidelines should make your website or application accessible without too much work.
Trying to ‘fix’ an existing website or application to become accessible might be a lot more complex. Others might have mentioned “Making the design color contrast compliant.” or “Adding Aria attributes” as the solution. These solutions will not bring accessibility compliance. You will need an experienced team to assess the current product and develop a plan to make it compliant.
Federal Requirements & Compliance
When talking about compliance, we refer to WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) compliance. WCAG compliance is a set of guidelines created by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) that will guarantee an accessible product when implemented correctly.
Aside from the fact that creating an accessible product is simply the right way to build a website or application, there is another compelling reason to begin working on compliance – it is a federal requirement.
The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) states in Title II: “the ADA prohibits discrimination against any “qualified individual with a disability.” and to “provide qualified individuals with disabilities equal access to their programs, services, or activities.”
A similar requirement for federal and government products and services is outlined in Section 508.
These regulations mean that not allowing access to your product’s functionalities and content is considered discrimination if this person is assumed to be part of your expected audience.
So it is beneficial to all to take accessibility compliance into account as early as possible in your design and development process. As a result, you allow your users to work with your product as you intended, and you avoid alienating part of your audience.
But to achieve this, it is essential to have people on your side who know how to implement compliance as smoothly and correctly as possible.
Ultimately, it is not about how much work it is to become WCAG compliant – it is simply the right thing to do for you and your audience.
Partner with a Company that Understands Accessibility
Customer preferences constantly evolve; keeping your product accessible can help you stay relevant. In our software development and our tech staffing solutions, OpenArc knows how to plan and build with product accessibility in mind. We know how important it is to create accessible software and hire diverse candidates who understand the importance of maintaining accessible products. Ready to start or have questions? Contact Us.
Lead UX/UI Designer at OpenArc