Sanna Kramsi - Blog A peek into my life


May 10, 2020 | Accessibility

I've been thinking a lot about accessibility lately, especially from the point of view of websites (because creating websites is my job). You could say that I've finally seen the light regarding accessibility, and I think everything should be as accessible as possible.

I've heard many people say that their website won't be accessible because it doesn't have to be. I can’t understand why people are excluding people from accessing their content on purpose. I think it's bad practice and UX design. But at least here in Finland, the talk about accessibility has increased a lot and a lot of agencies have advertised that they do everything accessible by default. This is great and I hope the rest of the companies will soon do the same. It’s our job digital agencies to inform our clients about accessibility if by some chance they don’t understand what it means. It’s in everyone’s interests to have as much of the internet as accessible as possible.

Accessibility doesn't have to be hard. Yes, of course at the beginning it can take a little bit more work to get used to the new ways of thinking, but that's the way with all new things you learn. Why is it ok to not improve with accessibility when you need and want to constantly improve with your coding skills or design skills or whatever skills you require at the job you do. I will admit that when I first heard the letters WCAG, I thought that oh no, this will be something super hard. But it wasn’t, I had just somehow gotten into my head that accessibility would automatically mean huge changes and my whole way of working would have to change. I was wrong, my way of working at that time was already taking care of many accessibility aspects, I just hadn’t realized it or even thought about it. I believe the same kind of thoughts and fears might be running in the heads of the people who feel accessibility is somehow a negative thing.

Accessibility and design

Accessibility does not automatically mean ugly design. I hear a lot of mocking the design of sites that are accessible. It’s ok to not like the designs but to blame accessibility for it feels a bit silly to me. It's possible to create beautiful things while still making sure everything is accessible. It might require a little bit different creativity than before but if it feels impossible to create a design that takes even contrast into account, I think you have a problem with your way of thinking.

A little pet peeve of mine is the issue with contrast. I can accept is you can’t quite hit the requirements with contrast everywhere on the websites where accessibility is not “necessary”, but I’ve seen content with 1.0 contrast or less. My eyes are ok, and I don’t have difficulties with seeing colors and with my good quality monitor even I have difficulties in reading such content at my normal pace. It annoys me. If the design is suddenly bad after adding more contrast, a reality check is needed.

The accessibility specs say that accessible websites need to be easy to use. I feel this should always be the goal of any website, no matter whether we are thinking about accessibility as a whole or not. If users cannot navigate your website, it means they will most likely leave your site find other websites that they can use properly. This is something I always do very quickly. If a site is hard to navigate or if the information I seek is hidden behind multiple levels of content or fancy visual nonsense, I leave and never come back.

Accessibility and website technical implementation

I’ve also heard sentences like “But the client won’t create accessible content anyway, so there is no point in investing in accessibility in this project”. This is so wrong. Even if the content wouldn’t be perfectly accessible, why wouldn’t it make a big difference to have the website itself as accessible as possible? You should always make sure as much of the site is accessible as possible. If you are a developer and you get the site layout from a visual designer, you can’t necessarily affect things like contrast or element positioning of the site. But even then, there are things you can do, for example, you can make sure people can navigate the site with a keyboard.

Accessibility tools

A lot of accessibility testing needs to be done manually. But there are some tools to help with checking contrasts, heading structures, link texts, and so on. A good list of all kinds of accessibility testing tools is found on the WC3’s Web Accessibility Initiative site. There are also resources for designers, developers, and content writers among others. There is a lot of content about accessibility online.

Considering how many people have difficulties accessing websites today, it makes me sad that there still are people who don't create accessible designs and functionalities on purpose. My main arm is currently sore, and it has gotten me thinking about how many of the sites I currently regularly use, would I be able to use without my right hand on the mouse. Some of them for sure, but definitely not all of them.

I still have a lot to learn on accessibility and I'm not doing things perfectly. But I'm trying and willing to learn. The more inclusive we are, the better the world will be for all of us.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash