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February 2016


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Design and Development in Web Accessibility

Design and Development in Web Accessibility

It's that time of year again where I give up everything I consider to be fun food: crisps, chocolate, sweets and more.
So when I push down the red velvet seat to watch Deadpool on the big screen, without stifling my laughter with popcorn, the experience feels somewhat incomplete. Equally a rendition of Happy Birthday has a much flatter tone when I know I won't be getting cake at the end of it. The moral of the story here isn't 'don't be greedy' (wise words though!) I am pointing out the fact that I didn't involve everything I needed to, to make the experience a success. I denied myself of what I felt was the ultimate experience.

If we as web professionals were to try to achieve web accessibility with either design or development, our users would suffer the same disappointment, well, worse in fact. These aspects are complementary. We need to consider both design and development in order for accessibility to succeed. The only way it will is if you make sure you’ve got accessibility taken care of as part of your process.
We follow a design and development cycle and hopefully we can integrate accessibility into several different phases: content planning, wireframing, visual design, development and so on. Your process may differ but what should remain the same is your goal to prevent accessibility issues in the first place rather than trying to fix them at a later stage.

Many concentrate mainly on just one aspect, either design or development. For accessibility to really work though, the two must go hand in hand. A flawed design coded perfectly is just as useless as a brilliant design coded poorly.

Accessibility is the responsibility of the developers and the designers. If you can find a team that work closely together and understand each other, the way we here at focus do, then that's the best start you could possibly have.

Yes, a lot of accessibility is totally development. People seem to believe that accessibility is something that is created programmatically, mostly in the domain of the web developer. They're close. There is indeed a lot that needs to be done programmatically to ensure that what you create is accessible to people with disabilities. But you can’t rely on programmatic accessibility alone. Yes it's what we need to provide for most screen reader users. But what about those with low-vision? They rely on the visual aspects of a design to be able to make sense of it and perceive the interface as intended. And there are cognitive difficulties to take in to consideration as well as language barriers. These need the visual aspects of a design to speak to them in a voice that they can connect with. There is a lot more to it than just programmatic accessibility.

And that’s where I come in, as the designer. Accessibility is super important in the design phase of a project. We can usually predict which areas will be a problem just by looking at wireframes (the 'skeleton' of the design layout). We look at the layouts, how design elements will harmonise together, hierarchy of information and all sorts like that. This provides us with insight into what is likely going to be a challenge for people with disabilities.
Accessibility issues should be pointed out and addressed as early as possible in the design process. The longer you wait, the more costly it will be to change or fix later.
 

Jordana Jeffrey
Jordana

Created on Friday February 26 2016 12:54 PM


Tags: design development web accessibility


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