Jason vs. Accessibility, pt. 1

Reading time ~1 minute

Usability is finally starting to bubble to the top for Web Designers and Information Architects. We are, as an industry, starting to realize that our audience exists outside of Photoshop canvas and beyond the code. In fact, I have witnessed an increased focus on JavaScript degradation over the past few months – an unspoken admission that we, as web design professionals, should and shall provide web content to users of all browsing backgrounds and capabilities. We have started providing, in earnest, content for the connoisseurs, the design savvy, the critics and the forward thinkers all in tandem with the conservative visitors, the visually impaired, our friends on mobile devices and those that, for whatever reason, just have JavaScript disabled.

Personally, I like movement on a web page. I like my flyout navigation to have some animation, and my repetitive content divs to mimic an accordion as I expand and collapse each panel; the action is interesting and it adds to my experience. In fact, I am disappointed, in most cases, when I find no animation where I expect to find it. Like many of my contemporaries I am quickly discovering that all those things I enjoy about modern web design are also the things that make a webpage into an accessibility nightmare. What do I, as a conscientious Web Architect, do? What do I suggest to my clients? Do I keep my designs and techniques moving forward or do I abandon all the movement and interaction so that the minority of users can browse the web to their own enjoyment?

My answer, flying in the face of the quintessential proclamation about having and eating cake, is simply “do both”. The analysis phase of every project I accept has increased to allow for accessibility planning. With so many well-defined best practices for Web Accessibility to be found, the platform for an enjoyable, accessible site is out there; we just have to plan for it.

Throughout this series, I will focus on modern web design trends and how to reconcile these trends with the movement toward, and significant need for, designing websites that are accessible to all audiences. We may all be surprised as we find a best-of-both-worlds scenario for most design techniques.

I also suggest reading W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative’s article about making websites accessible for users with disabilities and for mobile devices.

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