What is accessibility

What is accessibility?

Accessibility is the access to content that all users have, including those with disabilities or limitations. Accessibility is a subset of the more general and well-known term “usability”, which is the effectiveness and satisfaction with which the user can achieve their goal.

In the context of development, accessibility refers to creating content that can be used by anyone, regardless of individual physical or cognitive abilities and regardless of how they access the network.

Aside from permanent health problems, the use of an application may also be impeded by temporary or situational obstacles. Temporary ones include injuries or other challenges, the effects of which are time-limited, while situational obstacles may include a low-quality Internet connection, engaging with the user interface without a mouse, and screen sharing on a projector with low contrast.

Why is accessibility important?

According to statistics, roughly 15% of the world's population has some form of physical limitation. These people want to live a full life, and the use of applications makes up part of a healthy person’s life. Being able to access apps allows people to comfortably spend their time, get the information they need, and acquire needed services and goods. Apps designed with accessibility in mind will be equally usable and functional for everyone, regardless of existing limitations.

Accessibility is also important for the following reasons:

  • Competitive advantage: The percentage of satisfied app users will increase. Plus, an accessible web product improves company image, as it is a modern trend in the IT field.
  • Legal obligation: Large international projects make Accessibility a must when developing applications. In some countries, accessibility standards are mandated by law.
  • Empathy: Obstacles between the user and the content can be minimized, which can improve the lives of people with disabilities.

Tips for Improving Accessibility

To improve an app’s accessibility, simply follow the existing Accessibility standards:

  1. WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) from the W3C group
  2. Section 508 (valid in the United States)

The standards contain guidelines for making any product accessible. Consider the WCAG standard, which is a specification on how to make a web resource accessible by adding ARIA roles and attributes to HTML markup. It consists of 4 principles: perceptibility, operability, understandability and reliability.

The WCAG include three levels of compliance and priorities:

  1. A (minimal accessibility; the lowest)
  2. AA (the recommended level; average)
  3. AAA (maximal accessibility covering specific cases; the highest).

The standards and guidelines should be studied to best implement accessibility. Choose the appropriate level and take these requirements into account during the development process.

In addition, there are three useful accessibility rules to follow:

  1. Use semantic HTML elements or DIY. Semantic elements are elements that convey a specific meaning through the content they represent.
  2. Provide alternative images, colors, sounds, and movements. Add text or audio to pictures, color indicators, visual alternatives to sounds, and more.
  3. Use tools to check accessibility. Accessibility testing can be carried out using various services in manual and automatic mode: VoiceOver (MacOS), NVDA and JAWS (Windows), Google Lighthouse, aXe, Pa11y Dashboard.
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