Announcing The User Experience Team of One (2nd edition)!

Frequently Asked Questions

These common questions about web accessibility and their short answers are taken from Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbery’s book back to A Web for Everyone. You can find longer answers to each in your copy of the book, either printed or digital version.

  1. I’m not a designer (or I’m not a developer), so why should I read this book?
    It’s difficult to imagine a context in which one person could take a product, from soup to nuts, and make it accessible. There are so many decisions to be made, and accessibility must be considered at every step along the way. A designer or developer can’t make accessibility happen alone.If the decisions you make as part of your work impact someone’s experi- ence of a digital product, you need to know how to make decisions that will not result in accessibility issues. If you are leading an organization or a team, you may need to shake things up and change ow you do business in order to achieve accessibility. You can’t just tack it on and hope it sticks You need everyone to change their processes to make accessibility part of their practice.Chapter 11 looks at putting accessibility into practice.
  2. This isn’t part of my job description, so whose job is it?
    The simple answer is that we are all responsible for making our part of a project accessible. Rather than try to list all the different roles, titles, and skills, we identify three big groups:

    Design: How will we create a great user experience for all?
    Design includes all of the disciplines of UX and web design: informa- tion architecture, interaction design, information design, graphic design, and content strategy.

    Content: What does the product say, and how does it say it?
    Content includes the ongoing work to plan and produce text, images, audio, video—all the information in the site or app.

    Development: How is the product built?
    Development includes programming, coding, scripting, markup, as well as the templates and stylesheets that content authors use.

    In Chapters 3 through 10, we identify both who has the primary responsibility for each aspect of accessibility and how all the other roles support it.

  3. How big an issue is accessibility anyway?
    The U.S. Census Bureau says that over 47 million Americans have a disability of some kind. The UN and the World Bank say this adds up to 650 million people worldwide. That’s around 10% of everyone in the world.At some point in our lives, disability will affect most of us, no matter who we are, especially as we get older. By the time we retire, over 30% of us will have some disability, even if it is minor.To put a face on these numbers, we’ve created a set of personas of web users. They don’t represent everyone, but they will introduce you to some of the ways people with disabilities use the web. You’ll meet them in Chapter 2.
  4. I’m already doing responsive design. Isn’t that enough?
    Working to standards and responsive design are both important criteria for accessibility. One way to think about accessibility is that assistive technologies, such as screen readers and alternate keyboards, are just another kind of device. When a site is designed to be flexible, it works better on all devices.
    Chapter 4 covers how to support accessibility with a solid structure.
    Accessible UX goes further, to be responsive to differences in people as well as devices. It’s about making sure that the ways users interact with your site or application (Chapter 5), navigate (Chapter 6), or read the screen (Chapter 7) allow for user preference.
  5. Is content part of accessibility?
    It sure is! There are many reasons why people have trouble reading: cognitive problems like aphasia or dyslexia, physical or vision disabilities, low literacy, or reading in a second language. But even skilled readers can have problems when they are rushed, tired, stressed, or reading on a small screen. Accessible content is written in plain language (Chapter 8) and presented clearly and flexibly (Chapter 7).
  6. Should I follow Section 508 or WCAG?
    WCAG 2.0, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, is a standard published by the W3C. That means it was created with input from people around the world and reflects the best international consensus. Section 508 is a national regulation in the United States. Other countries and the EU have their own laws and regulations.If your product is covered by a specific regulation, of course you must meet its requirements. But if you are thinking about accessibility for other reasons, WCAG 2.0 is the place to start. It’s a robust standard that is flexible enough to apply in different contexts—websites, desktop apps, mobile apps, even web-enabled teakettles can be measured against the WCAG success criteria.The good news is that most standards are very similar. The even better news is that the U.S. Access Board (the folks who manage Section 508) has proposed that the next version of Section 508 will use WCAG 2.0 Level AA as its requirements for web content. The EU is also working on new accessibility regulations, and we’ve been told that they, too, will be based on WCAG 2.0 Level AA. We have our fingers crossed, because in today’s global technology world, it would be great to have one standard for web accessibility.
    You’ll find a mapping of the accessible UX principles to WCAG 2.0 in Appendix B.

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