Designing with inclusion in mind is an important consideration for creating websites, applications, and other digital forms of content that are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities or impairments. Accessibility is about more than just compliance with legal requirements - it's about ensuring that everyone has equal access to the same information and opportunities.
By focusing on accessibility, we can create digital experiences that are not only accessible but more user-friendly and efficient for everyone. In this article, we'll explore the principles of inclusive design and provide tips and best practices for creating accessible digital content.
Web content accessibility guidelines
The WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) is a set of guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to help make web content more accessible to people with disabilities and impairments. These guidelines provide a set of technical standards and requirements necessary to create accessibility to a wide range of users, including those with visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive impairments.
The guidelines cover a wide range of topics with four core accessibility principles:
Perceivable: Making sure that content is presented in a way that users can perceive it.
Operable: Ensuring users can interact with the content using a variety of input methods.
Understandable: Providing content that is easy to understand and navigate.
Robust: Creating compatibility with a variety of devices and assistive technologies.The four core accessibility principles
POUR, the guiding principles acronym, is a way of approaching accessibility by breaking it down into four main aspects.
WCAG is widely recognized as an international standard for web accessibility, and many countries have laws and regulations that require web content to meet WCAG standards. Adhering to WCAG can not only ensure accessible content to those who may need it, but can also help organizations avoid legal issues related to accessibility.
To learn more specifics about WCAG, you can go visit this link.
POUR principles in depth
To make content perceivable means the user can identify content and interface elements using their senses. For many users, this means perceiving a system primarily visually while for others it could be a matter of sound and touch. This might include providing alternative text for images, using descriptive headings and labels, and using clear and concise language.
Alt text for images: Alt text is used to describe the content of an image for those who cannot see it. This text is usually only read by screen readers for people with visual impairments.
Audio and visual content: For those with sight or hearing impairments, content in the form of podcasts, audio files, or video content can be difficult to consume without accessibility practices in place.
Captions: synchronized with audio and should include speaker identification and other important information.
Transcripts: Should include a written version of all spoken content.
Alternative text: Describe content to those who cannot see to convey the purpose briefly.
Proper formatting and layouts: Create an easier way to perceive content. This can include using headings, lists, and other formatting elements to structure content.
Descriptive link text: Should be descriptive and indicate the destination of the link. This makes it easier for people using screen readers to understand the purpose of the link.
Test content with assistive technologies: In testing, ensure that the content is as perceivable to as many people as possible. Additionally, this helps identify any issues that need to be addressed.
When making perceivable web content, it is important to consider the needs of users with disabilities, including those who are blind or have low vision, deaf or hard of hearing, or have cognitive or mobility impairments. Solutions must be adaptable, meaning content can be presented in different ways without losing information and structure, and distinguishable to make it easier for users to see and hear content.
Operability refers to the ability of web content to be navigated and used by people with disabilities. This includes things like being able to access content using a keyboard or other assistive technologies, being able to navigate through content using headings and other structural elements, and having controls and functions that are easy to use and understand.
Not keyboard accessible: Difficult or impossible for people who are unable to use a mouse or trackpad to use.
Poorly-designed controls and functions: Difficult to use or understand and may be frustrating or impossible to use.
Poor contrast or small text: Difficult or impossible for people with low vision to read.
Auto-playing audio or video: Disruptive or confusing particularly for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Pop-ups or overlays: Disruptive or confusing, particularly for those with cognitive impairments.
Webpages should be accessible and navigable using a keyboard, as well as a mouse or trackpad. This includes providing keyboard-accessible alternatives for controls and functions, such as using the "Enter" key to activate a button.
Design controls and functions to be easy to use. They should be clear and easy to understand, with instructions provided if necessary.
The text should have a high contrast ratio with the background and be large enough to be readable.
Avoid the use of pop-ups and overlays.
Ensuring that content is operable is important for creating a navigatable user experience, as it allows users to easily interact with and use the site or application. Operable solutions provide well-designed and functional user experiences that are positive, improving the overall effectiveness and usability of the site or application.
Users should easily be able to comprehend the content of a webpage. The content of a page should remain consistent in its presentation and format, predictable in its design and usage patterns, and appropriate to the audience in its voice and tone.
Text using a lot of advanced vocabulary and complex sentence structure or written at a high reading level.
The use of technical jargon, industry-specific terms or technical language in creating unnecessary difficulty.
Poorly formatted text making it difficult to read.
Images and videos that remain unlabeled.
Content that is not organized logically, preventing individuals from understanding the main points or following content.
Clear, concise, plain language, with the use of technical terms as necessary and described well. This can make the content more accessible to a wider audience.
Headings and subheadings help users scan content and understand the main points.
Bulleted and numbered lists break up long blocks of text and make content easier to understand.
Images and videos to illustrate concepts and make content more engaging.
Alternative text, as mentioned above, allows users who use screen readers to understand the content of images.
Providing translations that are accurate and easy to understand, if the content is in multiple languages.
Following a similar vein to the other principles mentioned, understandability aims to create an environment that is concise and easily understood by people of all abilities and backgrounds. By following these best practices, you can help ensure that your content is inclusive and welcoming to all users.
By creating content that is semantically structured and easily interpreted by assistive technologies, you can ensure that your website is accessible to a wide variety of users. This includes things such as screen readers or speech recognition software, which someone may use to access your website. In having robust content, it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of people.
Using non-semantic HTML tags.
Failing to provide alternative text for non-text content.
Using low contrast colour schemes.
Not testing with assistive technologies.
By using semantic HTML tags, such as
<header>, <nav>, <main>, <footer>,and
<article>, you can help assistive technologies understand the meaning and structure of your content.
If you have images, videos, or audio recordings on your website, you should provide text alternatives, such as alt text, transcripts, and captions.
Make sure that your text and background colours have sufficient contrast to ensure that your content is easy to read.
Testing your website with assistive technologies, such as screen readers or speech recognition software, can help you identify and fix any accessibility issues.
The idea behind the robustness principle is that web content should be designed in a way that it can be interpreted by a wide variety of users and technologies.
The POUR principles are guidelines for creating accessible web content that is usable by people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. These principles include: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. To make your website accessible, you should ensure that your content is perceivable by users with disabilities, operable by users with a wide range of abilities, easy to understand and navigate, and able to be interpreted by a wide variety of users and technologies.
If you're interested in learning some specifics, you can read my article about making HTML more accessible.
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