I wanted to take the small opportunity of this blog post to encourage those that are less familiar with technology accessibility to become a little more familiar. It’s interesting, and it’s worth it! I’ll touch on a few aspects around what we’ve been working on regarding accessibility, but I mostly hope to inspire someone new to engage in this community.
My recipe for inspiration is as follows…
Step one, a statistical hook: hey, this topic impacts a lot of people!
- “In a study put together by Google based on data from the World Bank (WDI, 2008) and CDC.gov (NHI Survey, 2008), it was found that there are more hard of hearing users in the United States than the population of Spain.”
So, that’s a whole other country.
- “…and more users who are blind and low-vision [again in the US] than the population of Canada.”
Another whole country. And yes, cold countries count, too (I can make that joke because I live in Minnesota).
- Here’s some more data for the curious starting-to-get-inspired: https://www.powermapper.com/blog/website-accessibility-disability-statistics/
Step two, a mental picture:
- Take a moment to think about your day and what technologies you used
- Watch a view into someone else’s day (source: Apple): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XB4cjbYywqg
- Ask a basic question: what does my gut tell me about the value of what I just watched?
Step three, engage:
- Learn – It’s always helpful to get your arms around the basics, here’s a few resources for later:
- Dialogue – This is hardly a stagnant topic! There are interesting conversations happening now and that will likely continue to happen into the future as technologies and perspectives continue to evolve. For example, there are real trade-offs at stake around tailoring experiences to specific needs while managing privacy considerations. Here’s one example article on that topic: https://www.powermapper.com/blog/accessibility-analytics/
- Advocate – We’ve seen, appreciated and learned from the stance of some tech giants like Microsoft and Apple in embracing standards and capabilities in this area. I like Microsoft’s statement of commitment as an example: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/Accessibility/
Oh, and here’s some of what we’ve been doing!
We have been aligning our own product with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (or WCAG, pronounced wee-kag), an international standard that has broad adoption (including within the US where the 508 Compliance standard now aligns to WCAG 2.0). There are three levels to the WCAG 2.0 standard (A to AAA scale), and we’ve been working towards the common target of level AA.
Much of our work this year has been targeted at users with vision impairments (having previously done work on features targeted at a variety of other needs). This included:
- Support for keyboard navigation (vs. a mouse, and useful to a variety of audiences)
- Support for screen readers to interpret (read) the interface
- Support for alternative text for admins to describe certain images loaded in the interface
If you have questions about designing in our platform to best support accessibility, please reach out to us! We love learning about this area, and are evolving guidance material, and are also looking for feedback from users with varying needs on how we can continue to improve their experience.