Making the Web Accessible to Everyone

The web is a place that’s free and open to everyone right? That’s the prevailing theme, at least. We live in a society where there’s a lot of talk about equality, and yet designing the web to be more accessible for the entire spectrum of human ability can be tough to prioritize.

Accessibility: Truly for everyone—and truly important

Historically, the industry viewed accessibility as a way to develop sites so that those with physical and neurological handicaps could maneuver and access content. But this definition is problematic: it’s much too narrow.

The internet is ubiquitous in today's culture. People of every age, education level, physical ability, and mental ability can and should have access to it. It’s not only about making content screen reader ready. For example, Internet speeds are a widespread problem that affects access to content. Hand injuries can influence the speed in which an individual can navigate a site; even aging populations present a set of accessibility issues ranging from vision impairment to slow adoption of certain functionalities. It’s not a small minority that is affected by accessibility—everyone has been hit by a web accessibility issue one way or another.

If we aren’t designing the web to connect with the broadest audience possible, then we’re failing on two levels. One, we aren’t truly giving everyone an equal shot at accessing content (think about how powerful digital content has become for everything from education to news), and two, the web is only as good as the ideas and development around it. When groups or individuals are unable to contribute to innovations in web technology, we limit the web’s true potential as a communications platform.

What’s happening now to ensure the web is accessible to everyone?

At One Design, accessibility and usability go hand in hand—and are top of mind. That said, accessibility is still a subjective and constantly evolving area of web development. And if there’s no time or budget to address accessibility? We feel you. And we’re happy to report that we’ve found a few ways to bake accessibility into our development process without those dreaded scope extensions:

  1. Using frameworks, libraries, and plugins that already have accessibility baked in are easy wins. This carousel from Ken Wheeler does just that.

  2. We’re big fans of the Craft CMS framework. Not only does it facilitate the creation of beautifully functional websites, but it’s also always making improvements to web accessibility.

  3. Chrome is an excellent place to find accessible plug-ins.

  4. And last but not least, just a good old-fashioned general resource like the A11 project will help you go far on a small budget.

At the end of the day, we're all in this business to make the web a better place for everybody. We take pride in our craft and treat accessibility as a norm rather than an edge case. Beyond equality, making the web truly accessible creates opportunities, exposes us to new ideas, and inspires a spirit of innovation. Who doesn’t want that?

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Molly is a front-end developer with a background in branding and design. Intrigued by the delicate balance between function and beauty, she takes pride in delivering web experiences that are both intuitive and engaging.

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