5 ways you can experience digital accessibility as a web developer/professional

  • Author: Michaela Slade
  • Date: 19 May 2016
Woman typing on laptop keyboard next to her book and phone

As today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), we thought that we would encourage some involvement amongst web developers/ professionals so that you can gain a first-hand awareness of what it means to develop a web-space that is accessible. We have put together a few simple ways that you can experience accessibility first hand and see what parts of your websites you need to improve to become accessible.

1. Run a logo, page or background through a free colour contrast analyser

Try out a colour contrast analyser for free to determine the legibility of text and the contrast of visual elements, such as logos or visual indicators. A great tool that you can use is the Paciello Group Colour Contrast Analyser which is free to download. You can either input the HEX codes or you can use the integrated ‘eye-dropper’ tool to determine the colour contrast illegibility on whatever you are designing/developing. The tool uses a pass/fail assessment against WCAG 2.0 colour contrast success criteria and a simulation of certain visual conditions to demonstrate how your web content appears to people with less than 20/20 vision.

2. Watch a video with auto-captions turned on and then work out how you can fix the errors

YouTube is a social video sharing platform that has auto-caption functionality. Some people may not be aware that although auto-captions can be useful for getting a broad overview of what is being said, they are often incorrect. So if you are creating a video which has auto-caption functionality, it is important to manually correct any errors in the captions. Here is an article explaining the importance of having correct closed captions on your videos.

So try watching one of your videos with auto-captions turned on and then see if you can correct them so they accurately convey what is being said. 

For more information, see our resource guidelines for captioning online videos.

3. Try the new NVDA screen reader to experience how a blind person navigates your website

This could be the biggest eye-opener in terms of finding out how accessible your website really is.  By having a first-hand view of how your website is perceived and navigated by someone who relies on a screen reader, you will understand the improvements that need to be made. So grab yourself a free screen-reader and have a go! Find out more information about screen readers or download one for free here.

4. Pick a complex image on your website and write alt text for it

Adding alternative text for images is the first principle of web accessibility. It is also one of the most difficult to properly implement. Alt texts provide text for visitors on your platform who cannot see images on their browsers. This could mean that their browsers may have limited functionalities, or they are vision impaired or use screen readers.  The key principle is that computers and screen readers can’t analyse an image and determine what it represents.  So as a developer you must provide alt text which tells visitors the content and the function of the images. Alternative text can be provided in two ways: as an alt attribute within the img element or within the context of the image, i.e. as a caption underneath the image. So go on, give it a try. The more you practise writing alt text, the easier it is. We have some more tips and tricks on how to write alt text here.

5. Rewrite a section in your website in Easy English

It is all too easy nowadays for companies to get caught up in using ‘marketing jargon’ and writing in complex languages they appear to be experts in industry or to enhance their images.  However, there are many visitors, for many reasons, who may not understand anything other than Easy English. Easy English is, according to Access Easy English:

  • Writing in everyday words
  • Using simple sentence structure
  • Supporting the messages with meaningful and clear images
  • Having functional consumer reviews of products and company information
  • Being clear about marketing versus information messages

Now you understand the basis of Easy English, why not pick a section of your website and have a go at rewriting it into Easy English. It’ll be an eye-opener.

We hope that this was an eye-opening experience for you in terms of web-development and accessibility. If you want to challenge someone else today to try these ways on Global Accessibility Awareness Day then feel free to share and make them aware.

We have lots of invaluable resources to get you started on accessibility including our Cognitive Disability Digital Accessibility Guide, launched this week.  Or contact us for a consultation.