We encourage organizations to include accessibility as early as possible in the design of their digital experiences — because when accessibility is at the forefront of design and development, the most inclusive digital experiences are the result. (Planning a redesign? Get caught up with the 3 digital accessibility considerations when you’re planning a website redesign).
Once you’ve incorporated accessibility into the early stage design phase, it’s time to build it into your development process as well:
- Prepare alt-text for images and graphical elements: Images and graphics from your designs should have alternative text if they’re informative — if they’re not informative, flag them as decorative images. Having an inventory of all of the images and graphics from the designs, organized by what is coded as part of the layout’s HTML and what will be sourced from the CMS, is even more helpful when it includes well written alt-text.
Expert advice: “Alternative text is used by screen readers (and search engine crawlers) to understand what the image is communicating to a visual user. Without it, people who are blind and can't perceive images may miss out on important information." - Gary Aussant, Director of Perkins Access Consulting
- Ensure developers code for different interaction modes: People with various disabilities often interact with websites in different ways. For example, people who are blind or cannot use a mouse because of a motor impairment primarily rely on a keyboard to follow links and press buttons. Others use voice commands through speech-to-text software to operate a user interface. When developing your new website, make sure that all of these forms of input are enabled in your code so that people who cannot use a mouse can still use your site.
Expert advice: “Keyboard accessibility is one of the most important aspects of web accessibility. Users who are visually impaired, or have other disabilities, often rely on a keyboard for navigation. Developers can better help those users to interact with a website by providing a skip link. Then, keyboard users can easily bypass links in the primary navigation. There are many ways in which a developer who is trained can implement functionality to provide the user with a superior, accessible navigation experience through a traditional or modified keyboard. - Elise Ouellette, Strategist at Vital Design
- Train your developers: Early on, it was essential for your designers to understand the impact of accessibility, even before the redesign began. Your developer team needs that training, too, and should have a basic understanding of ways to build accessibility into the development process during coding. Get your team up to speed and build their expertise — this will result in a more efficient development process and workflow.
Always be on the lookout for opportunities and challenges — considering accessibility throughout the entire process is key. Identifying potential barriers in the wireframe stage doesn’t mean that, going forward, your digital experience will be barrier-free. And you don’t want to develop your website or app and then have to go back and retrofit for accessibility.
When you build it into your site along the way — and build it into your process, too — you’ll develop a sustainable approach to accessibility for your digital experiences that will benefit you now and in the future.
Is your organization ready to embrace digital accessibility to ensure the best possible digital experience for everyone you serve? Whether you're just getting started or want to understand what you could be doing better, the experts at Perkins Access can help. Get in touch today.