Digital Accessibility

  • WCAG 2.2 AAA

Website accessibility should be baked-in not painted-on. This is a philosophy that is brought into many projects I worked on during my time at SWiM Communications. I designed and developed websites that catered to people with disabilities, such as vision impairment, hearing disabilities, motor difficulties, and cognitive impairments, allowing them to perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with websites.

Building to a Standard

While it might seem intuitive, taking the time to build accessibility into a site is far easier than returning later in an attempt to transform elements. From small considerations like text size and touch elements to larger, more complex form states, every aspect of a site has an impact.

The WCAG is the best standard for accessibility, with current sites aiming to reach 2.2 AA status. While this may seem an impossible task, it doesn't take long for elements to add up to an accessible website.

Auditing Existing Sites

While at SWiM Communications, I audited several existing and in-progress sites for accessibility, compiling findings and suggestions into easy-to-implement reports. While the focus of accessibility is making websites better for users with disabilities, it is ultimately a developer who needs to interpret the suggestions and implement them into code.

Some of the tools I used for auditing these sites were:

  • WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool), a browser extension that highlights potential issues on a page
  • Google Lighthouse, a developer tool that can give a broad overview of accessibility
  • OS Screen Reader, for the no-frills text to speech testing
  • WebAIM Contrast Checker, to test the color contrast of text, graphical objects, and visual elements
  • W3C Markup Validation, checking the basic structure of a page for errors

User-focused Design

Accessibility and usability in website design are closely intertwined concepts that work hand in hand to create a more inclusive and user-friendly digital environment. While accessibility focuses on making websites usable for people with disabilities, usability is about designing websites that are efficient, effective, and satisfying for all users. Incorporating accessibility standards, naturally enhances the usability of a website by making it more navigable, understandable, and operable for everyone. Features like clear navigation menus, keyboard accessibility, adequate contrast ratios, and responsive design not only aid users with disabilities but also improve the overall user experience, making websites more intuitive and easier to use for all visitors.

Moreover, designing with accessibility and usability in mind from the outset of a project encourages a more thoughtful design process that considers the diverse needs of all users. I follow a user-centric approach, leading to innovations that benefit a wide range of users, including older individuals, those with temporary impairments, and even users in challenging environments (like bright sunlight or noisy areas). By viewing accessibility as an essential aspect of usability, my sites are more adaptable, resilient, and universally beneficial digital experiences. This holistic approach not only meets ethical and legal obligations but also enhances brand reputation, broadens market reach, and cultivates customer loyalty by demonstrating a commitment to inclusivity.