Enshrining Accessibility at Every Level
When I started to learn HTML, I began with basic elements like
I learned about semantics, creating sections with headings, and styling elements with CSS.
Unconsciously, I was laying a foundation of knowledge on how to build accessible websites.
When I began specialising in accessibility, this foundation made it much easier for me to grasp a lot of the web accessibility guidelines and rules—I already knew how to apply most of them.
In 2014—eight years in as a front-end developer—I attended a talk by Heydon Pickering in which he mentioned accessibility. This is when I realised that semantics play an important role in accessibility. Before that talk, I had only written semantic HTML because that’s what I had learned to do. Looking back, I now realise that it shouldn’t have taken eight years before I learned about something as important as accessibility.
In those eight years, I read a lot of articles about various web-related topics. I don’t remember accessibility being a prominent part of those articles. This is something that most certainly has improved since then—a lot of articles now explicitly mention accessibility. That’s so cool!
We all play our part in the accessibility of content. So we should all have some accessibility knowledge that relates to our part of the puzzle. From media managers that make sure the videos have subtitles to developers that know when to use ARIA and when not to. This also includes the people in charge of projects, such as product owners, department heads, and CEOs. These are the people that actually have the power to make accessibility a project requirement and establish it as a goal that everyone has to work towards.
It’s difficult to be the only person who fights for accessibility. And we shouldn’t have to fight. The reason that we have to is that our superiors either don’t know about accessibility or don’t care about it. If only one person fights for accessibility, it’ll remain a personal thing—it won’t become a part of a companies design process. On top of that, there are a lot of different aspects to accessibility, and you cannot expect one person to know all the ins and outs. One specialist per company isn’t enough to create an accessible product.
Every member of the team should be fully behind accessibility. The same way that the team should be fully behind delivering a quality product. After all, accessibility is a big part of the quality of your website.
Accessibility gets increasingly more attention. We need to make sure that people in the right places know about it.