Ep 6: Access All Areas?

Testing for accessibility. Its a biggie, and something I always feel I personally can do better at, though looking at and using some tech out there I think the majority of people can do better. When building websites, you can ensure the site, and structure (if using a CMS) meeting best practices.

We can point out accessibility issues with clients, things like pointing out if their brand colours don’t contrast enough, and ensuring that title/alt/caption text fields are present when the product is live, but there’s only so much you can do when you’re not necessarily providing content, just the site, though some clients will ask us for usability or accessibility input when we work on the site.

Things I do

  • Listen to the site/try to navigate using VoiceOver. This is especially good for picking up on things like link text which is ‘Click Here’ with no context, and a lack of ‘skip to main content’ links. Incidentally this seemed to take ages for me to get to grips with, it really seemed counter intuitive to me, but I’m not sure if that was because it wasn’t designed for me and how I interact with websites. For example, I have to close app notifications when I use it as they get focus as soon as they appear, moving away from the site
  • Don’t use the mouse, try to access all areas with the keyboard. Tabbing for the win. Use in conjunction with VoiceOver for maximum testing
  • Use the WAVE[1] Toolbar (checks contrast, turns off styles, checks for content issues as well). This flags up a lot of things, it’s a good tool, quite simple to use.
  • Checking for alt text for images that need alt text (there’s some disagreement on if all images need alt text, or only ones that have a purpose need explanatory text? I generally go for important images have alt text, and others can have alt text if the client feels its needed, but I’m not sure what’s best for people).
  • Semantic HTML. Make sure the HTML is semantically correct, headings are actually using h elements, strong, emphasis markup. Using lists correctly, all these things can be checked and help to make the site as accessible as possible

Mobile is another thing. There’s usability issues like the size of active areas and making sure links are highlighted/not too close together (all of which you should be testing on mobile devices anyway), and again, iOS devices come with VoiceOver for visually impaired users. Android now comes with talkback and haptic feedback

I feel like I’m missing something more often than not, but I also feel like I send sites out there that are pretty accessible, especially compared to others out there (though I know that’s not the metric we should judge our work by). I still feel I’m missing out on techniques and tools to test for accessibility, or missing out on user experience that means people can use the sites we put out. So, tell me, what’re your favourite tools or techniques for testing for accessibility? I’d love to hear more, and I’ll compile a list of accessibility awesomeness.


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