One of the things I got to learn a lot about during my internship (you can read more about it here) is accessibility. It’s a topic dear to my heart and I can’t emphasize its importance enough. The web needs to be available to everyone and we have the responsibility to make sure that users with different needs are able to access information in an appropriate way.
Knowing where to start with such a vast topic can be intimidating. Here are a few things that have helped me, and will hopefully be a useful foundation for you to continue building your accessibility skills.
Never underestimate the good old semantic HTML
Using the right building blocks for your project may sound like a no-brainer. Still, we have all used a div tag instead of a better-suited element because we were in a rush and “it doesn’t really matter, it works and it looks the same”. However, HTML tags exist for a reason and usually come with extra benefits when used correctly. What might not be perceived as a problem by us when developing the app can cause confusion or problems for users using assistive technologies, such as screen reader. Use the right elements and you are halfway there.
Remove all CSS to be able to see the bare structure that the web reader will “see”
When all of the styling is removed (which you can do in the developer tools of your browser of choice) you will be left with the bare structure of your website. That is what certain users use when navigating the web. It can be a great exercise for you to see if the composition makes sense and if you’re pleased with how the information is presented and accessed.
There are also extensions that can remove all CSS for you quite quickly which can come in handy.
Test with different extensions
There are luckily many great extensions that help with testing and understanding accessibility problems. You can use them to check the contrast, layout, and all kinds of errors that might sneak in. Many articles recommend different ones if you feel like diving in and finding what best suits you. Here are some I found very useful:
Wave: Easy to use (right click and select ‘Wave this page’), offers visual feedback and helpful tips;
Google Lighthouse: Built into Chrome (you can find a Lighthouse tab in the dev tools), easy to use, and offers the possibility to choose what you want to test (like SEO, accessibility,…) and a report at the end.
WCAG Contrast Checker: What I personally love about this one is that it allows me to see what the page looks like for users with dyschromatopsia (a deficiency in color vision).
As I mentioned before accessibility is a vast topic, but any step we take to improve it counts. If you want to learn more I would suggest reading the official accessibility guidelines for your country and using different tools to test webpages. The test results can help you start noticing patterns and recognizing which errors can be avoided. As I continue my learning journey I will share any useful tips and resources I come across. If you have any please do share in the comments bellow, I would love to hear from you.