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Planes are accessible.

Websites should be too.

In the last hundred years, dozens of legislative acts have been passed to make our environment more accessible for people with disabilities. These include laws such as making public transportation wheelchair accessible (Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1970) or protecting disabled people from housing, education or job discrimination.

The overall goal of these acts is to remove barriers, which can be physical or environmental (like the absence of a lift at a subway station) or institutional (including discriminative laws).

The social model of disability, which first emerged in the 1960s, deals with the idea that it is not a person who is disabled, but society, which is disabling people by creating a system that is unable to work for everyone.

In 1975, the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS) claimed: "In our view it is society which disables physically impaired people. Disability is something imposed on top of our impairments by the way we are unnecessarily isolated and excluded from full participation in society.

Removing barriers

Removing physical barriers and making places accessible for people with a walking impairment, vision limitations or hearing loss is a necessary and obvious thing to do. According to the US Census Bureau, nearly 1 in 5 Americans has a disability and with the average life expectancy increasing, these numbers are increasing as well.

Removing physical barriers, however, is just a first step. To secure equal rights for people with disabilities, change needs to happen on institutional, educational, and internal level as well.

In this article, I want to talk about how software and websites can be more inclusive for people with a disability and how you can make sure your websites is accessible for all your website visitors.

bug tracking workflow with useresnap

How accessible is your website?

As of 2013, Airline carrier websites are required to be accessible for people with disabilities. In 1986, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) was established to ensure that United States and foreign air carriers do not discriminate against people on the basis of disability. In 2013, the ACAA was updated and also included a requirement to make all air carrier websites accessible. As airline and flight information involved into an online format, this update was a neccessary means to include people and travelers with disability from booking to boarding.

In particular, the updated act was necessary to include:

⭐️ 8.1 million people with significant vision impairments, including 2.0 million people who are blind

⭐️ people with hearing impairments,

⭐️ people with learning disabilities or cognitive limitations, including ADD, Asperger, dyslexia etc.

⭐️ people who have trouble lifting their hand and have limited movement

⭐️ people, who have trouble speaking

In order to make websites accessible, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) published a standardized guide for anyone who is making their websites more inclusive. Since 2013, the ACAA requires airlines to follow the standards in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Here is what these requirements entail.

What does accessible website mean?

The WCAG is looking to make websites accessible in four different ways:

1) Perceivable: Making text and media perceivable for everyone
2) Operable: Helping users navigate content easily
3) Understandable: Making and media text understandable
4) Robust: Maximizing compatibility with user agents

While I encourage you to give the guidelines a thorough read, I want to point out a few things on how to make your website accessible. This is not an encompassing account, but should give you a few insights how to make your website accessible.

visual bug tracker

How to make your website accessible with Usersnap

We are helping customers on their way to a fully accessible website by allowing them to track their progress, make comments and annotations directly in the browser, and work towards an accessible website with their team.

1) Making text and media perceivable for everyone

This is probably the most obvious thing: everything you can perceive on a website (text, audio, video) needs to be available for another perception as well. What does that mean? All non-text content needs a written description what this element is.

Making content more perceivable also means including alternatives for time-based media such as audio and video. Furthermore, it extends to the presentation of content, including contrast, color, size of text, layout, and formal structure.

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bug tracking workflow with useresnap
bug tracking workflow for software teams

2) Operable: Helping users navigate content easily

In order to make website content accessible for people with movement limitations, all content needs to be operable through a keyboard without requiring specific timings for individual keystrokes. All buttons and links need to be accessible by the keyboard interface.

When checking your website for navigation functionality with your keyboard it is helpful to take note of missing keyboard functionality. This is easily done with a visual solution where you can register missing links directly in the browser. Here is what this process can look like.

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3) Understandable: Making and media text understandable

Any website should use clear and easy language. This includes limiting unusual words and abbreviations.

Making website understandable is not limited to making them more readable. “Understandable” also means having a simple navigation and a consistent terminology. Furthermore, it also means having a functioning error assistance in place, helping users avoid errors or make them reversible.

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bug tracking workflow with useresnap
bug tracking workflow for software teams

4) Robust: Maximizing compatibility with user agents

An important step of making a website accessibility is to ensure that its content is so robust that it can be interpreted by a variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

What does that mean?

All interface components (links and form elements, for example) need to be able to present information to users in different modalities.

When I recently interviewed Kristen Liu, a disability advocate and Director of Accessibility and Advocacy for Doppler Labs (a SF tech company making wireless earbuds that let you control how you hear the world) she said:

“If you are designing for disability, you are designing for everyone.”

Making a website accessible for people with disabilities means making it more accessible, easier to comprehend for everyone.

If you are interested in using Usersnap to make your website more accessible, you can sign up here.

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