A Holistic Approach to Accessibility

Chris Coughlan

Everyone deserves equal access to information and online resources. According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 1 out of every 5 adults in the U.S. live with some form of disability. Accessible websites are able to engage a larger audience, rank higher in search, and mitigate the risk of legal liability. For organizations that value inclusiveness and diversity, accessibility is a moral imperative.

Building accessible experiences helps ensure that content is available to the widest audience possible, and ultimately benefits all users. With such far-reaching implications, accessibility isn't something that should be simply tacked-on to the process. Here at Aten, we take accessibility into consideration at every stage of projects. Here's a quick overview of how we tackle accessibility throughout the process – from strategy and design to development and testing.

Strategy and Information Architecture

  • As a part of identifying key audiences for a project, we specifically prioritize individuals with disabilities from day one.
  • Define the logical order of content on each screen to be read by a screen reader or other assistive technologies.
  • Write calls to action that adequately explain the next step in the user flow.

Design

  • Select colors, fonts, and font weights that meet high contrast requirements for low-vision users.
  • Design levels of content hierarchy, such as headings and body text.
  • Ensure all elements have an active and focus state.

Development

  • Implement logical flow, keyboard navigation, colors, fonts, etc. as defined in the strategy and design phases.
  • Use semantic markup for hierarchy and structure creating a usable outline of content for screen readers.
  • Include ARIA attributes to describe a section or functionality that wouldn’t make sense through a screen reader.
  • Set up content creators for success by requiring "alt" text for all visuals, headings, captions, transcripts, and descriptive link text. Beyond requiring "alt" text, make the process for adding it dead simple.

Testing

  • Write and run scripts to perform automated tests.
  • Run automated tests using Lighthouse, WAVE, SiteImprove, and other accessibility tools.
  • Run manual tests using keyboard navigation and screen readers.
  • Host feedback sessions and focus groups with users that regularly use assistive technologies.

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About the Author

As a user-centered design advocate, Chris is the Director of Digital Strategy and enjoys connecting organizations with people to create meaningful conversations.

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