Websites & accessibility: invest in education.
Show a random passerby a website and ask “What do you think?”. Everyone you’ll ask will respond in terms of beautiful or ugly. The majority of people, even clients, will judge a website by its cover. And that’s fine.
Under the hood
Things start changing when you get someone who’s blind to use a website. She won’t get to enjoy that pretty picture. She fully depends on the underlying code. So that code needs to be sound. Because as breathtaking as a Ferrari may be, it won’t be worth all that much if things under the hood don’t work smoothly.
What is the importance of valid code?
- The website works as expected, and will be easier to navigate with all sorts of devices, including smartphones, smartwatches and voice operated software (for instance in your car). Everything that we’re currently using, and we’ll be using even more of in the future.
- Assistive technology will work smoother. Someone who’s blind, for instance, oftentimes uses a screen reader that reads the web copy out aloud. Or they’ll use a keyboard or braille display to navigate the site. If the underlying code of a website is valid, these assistive appliances will work properly.
- Google is deaf and blind, too. A search engine is better able to analyze and index a site that uses sound, semantic code. As a result, those websites are likely to be found more easily. Many businesses invest heavily in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Having about 20% of these costly visitors leave without taking action, just because they’re not able to use the site, is such as waste.
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover
We want to advocate to start at the beginning: make web accessibility and semantics a core part of web and IT related education. Let developers look at their work critically and check the code that’s actually produced. Not just to make sure a website is accessible for people with conditions, but also to make the web future proof. Would you allow me to drop the word “sustainable” here?
“Make developers review the code that is being created by the tools they use. Code that meets validation requirements is more sustainable.”
Presently, the majority of graduates are mainly focused on the visual aspects of a website. They don’t have the faintest idea how someone who’s blind uses the internet. Or why it’s important to create designs with ample color contrast. And when it comes to making sure a website can be navigated with just a keyboard, they wouldn’t know where to start.
As a web professional, you’re never done learning. Part of the job. Fortunately, developers and designers are eager to keep learning. They’re inquisitive by heart and crave new developments. They must be given the opportunity to acquire the skills they need to do their jobs properly, however. Both in college, and later in the field.
That’s why businesses need to get access to more ways to train team members and to keep their skills up to date.
So, here’s my recommendation for government and educational institutions:
- Add web accessibility to the curricula of schools and colleges.
- Offer businesses and solopreneurs proper, affordable training in developing accessible websites and platforms
Otherwise it will be like trying to empty the ocean with a thimble.
“My recommendation: make web accessibility part of the core curriculum of relevant professional training, and offer affordable continuing education on the subject.”
Would you like to get some help with implementing web accessibility standards?
We gladly arrange for a guest lecture or an in-house training. For beginners, seasoned back-end developers and everyone else. Additionally, we offer accessibility audits, consultancy services and coaching services for developers. Feel free to inquire about the opportunities.
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