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Raise colleagues and clients accessibility awareness
Before going further, here are 2 complementary definitions of web accessibility:
From the Web Accessibility Initiative:
Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. Specifically, that they can perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute on the Web. Web accessibility also benefits others, including seniors whose abilities change with age. Web accessibility includes all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive and neurological disabilities.
And Tim Berners-Lee:
Making the Web and its services available to all individuals, regardless of their hardware or software, network infrastructure, mother tongue, culture, geographical location, or physical or mental abilities. Access to information and communication is a universal right. The web has become a major medium and it must be accessible to all without discrimination. Designing as part of thedesign for allmeans anticipating uses, responding to a logic of sustainable development and above all, using technology in a way that respects individualities.
Accessibility remains an unclear or even unknown subject for our colleagues and customers. Some have heard about it but do not really know what it is all about. Others do not even imagine how a blind person can go on the Internet or that accessibility, which is essential for people with disabilities, is actually useful for everyone.
There is a lot of work to be done to raise awareness, educate and, above all, interest people in web accessibility.
For the majority (customers or web professionals) it is restrictive, complex, expensive and for a minority.
you will pay a fine if your site is not compliant (in a french context) or
it is the right thing to do, although true, do not work at all.
Based on this observation, how, as a front-end developer, did I gradually manage to get my colleagues interested in this subject?
When I arrived in my old company, there were no accessibility projects planned. So I applied my knowledges as much as I could to existing projects. Nothing transcendent but always better than nothing. I was doing daily watch on the subject and sharing it on our internal Slack. This daily watch was not just about the front end. I was reading articles on accessible design techniques, UX, etc. Thus, all my colleagues could be concerned, took whoever wanted.
By talking about it and sharing my watch on the subject, the message began to get through. In the last projects in which I participated, I noticed that the forms had found their labels, that error messages were better reported… It sometimes happened that fellow designers asked me questions about how to design a component so that it would be accessible, even if accessibility was not sold in the project.
To get a more concrete feedback, I asked the people I worked with the most to tell me how their views/knowledges had evolved as a result of seeing resources on accessibility shared.
Overall, I managed to convince them of the importance of the subject, which is a good start. One of the developers told me that he was applying some best practices systematically, even on his personal projects. Others told me that it brought them another, more technical vision on the subject or that they now think further than
it is only for the blind people.
From a client perspective, there was a project where accessibility was seen as a constraint. It was a public service, and therefore with the obligation to be accessible. By approaching the redesign in an educational way (thank you Atalan for the AcceDe Web guidelines), to show that some things were not so complex to achieve, the interest and curiosity of the client grew. He was no longer suffering, he was becoming proactive. He asked questions about how to do better, if a particular component was not likely to be a problem… A colleague working with me on the project told me that we could see that this client had a real desire to do well, that it was not a problem anymore.
It’s a feedback from a little over two years of experience and I sincerely think that unless you’re in front of people with blinders, it’s much easier than it seems to make your colleagues and clients aware of accessibility. People are not closed on the subject, there must be an awareness on their part. Of course, having a member of the team who is interested in the subject and who will share it will help to raise awareness. The fact that people with disabilities use the Internet is unfortunately not obvious, how many times have I heard it said
but how does a blind person do it?
It’s not obvious that accessibility is not only for disabled people.
You will have noticed that I only mentioned blind people in this article. It’s just because it’s the only type of disability people think about when I talk to them about accessibility. They do not imagine all the tools that exist to ensure that people with various disabilities (deafness, dyslexia, attention disorders, motor disabilities, etc.) can access the Internet.
Nor do they think how much easier it is for everyone to take accessibility into account.
However, if we think of seniors, 63% of them use the Internet and 55% of them shop online. We can also think of someone who would break their arm and not be able to use their mouse for a while or someone who doesn’t have a special vision problem but, for comfort, prefers to zoom in on the pages of their browser. All this to illustrate that accessibility is essential for people with disabilities but also benefits everyone. This is not for a
Today it seems obvious to me, but I had to work on an accessibility project to know that it existed and all that it entailed. I have never heard of this subject during my training and many of the web professionals I have met so far have notions (
Oh yes, it’s for the blind) but not enough to sensitize a customer afterwards.
To make this obvious to everyone, we must explain how it is possible, talk about assistive technologies, show the considerable impact it can have.
It’s all about how you approach things. I think there is no point in stretching the stick of sanctions and legal obligation (still, in a french context) to get the message across: by showing all the actors in a project that integrating accessibility into their process can make them grow, teach them things and of course give more people the opportunity to access the fruits of their work, the message is much better.
Some resources to go further
- AcceDe web guidelines,
- The extension aXe to do quick automated audits with Firefox or Chrome,
- List of various accessibility resources.
You can find this article and many other very interesting articles on 24 jours de web (in french only)