2021 marks the 10th anniversary of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). Global Accessibility Awareness Day celebrates inclusion and digital access. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about and experience digital accessibility.
The past 14 months have shown a lot of people how it can feel to be blocked from fully taking part in society. For many people, this feeling of exclusion is the norm.
In the past year more people than ever have had to rely on digital services to socialise, work, learn, shop, to be entertained and to stay informed. It has never been more necessary to ensure that digital products and services are available to everyone who may need to use them, regardless of ability.
At Storm ID, we believe accessibility is everyone’s responsibility. We’re thinking about accessibility from the start of every project and weave it through all our work, from content to design to development. We build, test with end users, and iterate our products and services to make sure they’re accessible to everyone. This approach aligns with the Digital Scotland Service Standard and has been successfully applied to our recent work for Scotland’s Census.
Bringing an accessibility mindset from the very beginning ensures a compliant service, an enjoyable experience for all users and brilliant learning opportunities for us as a team. This is something that we champion and celebrate.
1. Encourage awareness and learning
We have a dedicated Slack channel for all things related to accessibility where we share learnings, resources, and news to maintain a good awareness of the barriers faced by the people we design for. This is a space for everyone in our company and is not solely focused on the technical aspects of accessibility.
Here we welcome questions and encourage discussion regardless of experience level.
We’ve done a dive into our accessibility channel and pulled out key resources and pieces of information we’ve found useful. We hope this will help to spread awareness and start new discussions.
2. Establish understanding of users
GOV.uk use a set of profiles that highlight common barriers people may face when they interact with digital services. It’s good for everyone to be familiar with resources like these to appreciate how design choices can make a task easier or more difficult to complete.
- Ashleigh: partially sighted screen reader user
- Christopher: user with rheumatoid arthritis
- Claudia: partially sighted screen magnifier user
- Pawel: user with Asperger’s
- Ron: older user with multiple conditions
- Saleem: profoundly deaf user
- Simone: dyslexic user
Being familiar with these profiles can help us to appreciate the different ways in which we all potentially interact with digital services.
3. Get familiar with assistive technologies
We explore assistive technologies to understand how people use them to navigate and interact with digital services.
All Apple and Android devices have screen readers built into them: on Apple it’s called VoiceOver, and on Android it’s called Talkback.
Deque University have a guide for VoiceOver keyboard shortcuts on Mac to help new users get set up using the VoiceOver screen reader.
My top tip is to ensure that the accessibility shortcuts for VoiceOver and Talkback are set up before you use the screen readers for the first time. Doing this means you can quickly and easily turn the functions on and off using simple button presses on your devices.
The Accessibility Developer Guide is a brilliant resource for all backgrounds, not just developers. Its guide on desktop screen readers helps with getting screen readers like NVDA and JAWS set up, and provides information on keyboard shortcuts and how to use the screen readers to interact with websites.
There is also information on how to browse websites using only a keyboard which explains how you might navigate a website if you were unable to use a mouse.
4. Get familiar with the guidelines
We rely on the WebAIM Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2 Checklist. It groups individual accessibility criteria under the relevant guideline. In turn, each guideline is categorised under one of the four principles of WCAG, which are:
The checklist is a gentle introduction to the criteria. It gives a good overview of the level (A, AA or AAA) each criterion is sitting at.
For a full and thorough explanation of each of the WCAG criteria, see W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1
5. We all have a part to play
We recently came across the Accessibility Manual from the Department of Work and Pensions. This is a very valuable resource to have, especially for public sector organisations.
One particularly useful part of the manual is the guidance for your job role. It lists the typical roles which make up a digital team and clearly lays out the accessibility considerations and responsibilities expected of each role.
Another great resource we came across is Worcestershire County Council’s SCULPT resource. It aims to guide and educate council staff to become digital practitioners when creating accessible documents and content. It is incredibly useful for anyone responsible for content creation and distributing information from any background or industry.
Look to the future
At Storm ID we’re committed to inclusivity and accessibility. This means we’re always learning, discussing, and maintaining awareness of how changes in technology impacts everyone in society. This includes things like getting familiar with and contributing to discussions on WCAG 3.0.
To discuss your approach to designing or developing accessible digital products or services, please get in contact with us.