The Missing Ingredient on the Web

A List Apart is a website for people who make websites that has been exploring the design and development and web content since 1998. Its particular focus is on web standards and best practices. An article on the site by web developer Andrew Hoffman presents the idea that accessibility is the missing ingredient in web design.

The author previously viewed accessibility as something to add at the end of the process of developing a website, such as adding alt text descriptions of every non-text element and captioning multimedia elements. He asserts that accessibility is treated as an afterthought because of not just developers’ laziness but also a lack of specifications and demand. He came to believe, through working on a project with stringent accessibility requirements, that coding accessibility should be considered from the beginning of all projects.

The author presents a tutorial based around creating an accessible shopping cart for an imaginary website selling robot parts. The cart needs to be able to be operated using only a keyboard and be understood by users using auditory input from a screen reader. For the purposes of the tutorial, the screen reader ChromeVox is recommended because it is a free plugin that works both Macs and Windows computers.

Those familiar with coding and developing web content will find the tutorial a useful introduction to incorporating accessibility features throughout the development process. The author admits that writing accessible code involves extra work, and all decisions need to be considered in terms of whether they lead to an accessible user experience. The labour (and costs) involved in working on accessibility will decrease over time as it becomes easier and more natural for developers to include features from the get-go. Most importantly, attention to accessibility will ensure that websites are usable by as many people as possible, increasing traffic and business. 

If you want to read the full article, especially if you are web developer and want to try out the tutorial, click here