DesignNews

Community-based a11y project launches

Aims to obliterate myths, educate developers and promote online usability equality

A community-driven web project, called The Accessibility Project, has launched, aiming to make web accessibility easier.

The project educates designers and developers through a mix of up-to-date nuggets of information, thoughtful how-tos, resource links and a handy checklist.

Dave Rupert, founder of The Accessibility Project, wrote about the site on his blog. He admitted that, despite his years of experience in creating websites, he lacked a good grasp of accessibility. Rupert spoke to .net about how this led to The Accessibility Project and why accessibility is an essential component of web design.

.net: What is the reasoning behind the creation of the site?
Rupert: I've been making web pages for 19 years now and understanding how to attain great accessibility has always been a pain point for me. When you find information it's often buried in long essays, is out of date, or has been replaced by something newer and better. As I spoke with other developers, it became clear this was a common problem. Frustrated with this, I wanted to create a site with short, digestible pieces of content that would always have the latest information and techniques available.

.net: The site lists plenty of contributors. How do you think pooling resources benefits the site?
Rupert: Community is the only way the project can accomplish its goals. Having the site open and transparent on Github means we can collaboratively update and continuously improve the content. Open source projects tend to consistently get better while blog posts rarely get updated and tend to become stale over time.

.net: How can .net readers contribute?
Rupert: Anyone can contribute. If you notice a problem with the website or you have a short post you'd like to write, please contribute by visiting Github. A handful of people have already started. I assume most .net readers already have a Github account in the year 2013, right?

.net: Judging by your blog post, is it fair to say accessibility remains something many web designers and developers still need to pay more attention to?
Rupert: I definitely think accessibility is something we need to pay more attention to. More often than not, it's one of those things where you may have picked up a bad habit along the way, or forgot a line of code, and you unknowingly made something completely inaccessible or less usable for someone. Key problem areas are: showing/hiding/ajaxing elements with JavaScript, forms, and colour choices/contrast in designs.

.net: What tips do you have for someone who wants to get started in improving accessibility on the sites they create?
Rupert: Every web designer or developer should be without hesitation in fumbling their way through a screen reader or checking the colour contrast of their designs. And if you'd like to get started and have some quick ‘accessibility wins’, I recommend the Quick Tips section of The Accessibility Project.

.net: Shouldn’t designers also be thinking about interface accessibility as a universal benefit for everyone rather than just a minority of users? 
Rupert: Accessibility does indeed benefit everyone. Whenever this question comes up I always think of my parents, in their 60s, who have their iPhones zoomed-in to the maximum as they're trying to use Facebook. So maybe you're making your site better for people like them. And if your site is tab-key navigable, maybe you're helping mouse-adverse developers who hate taking their hands off their keyboards. Perhaps by turning off CSS and JavaScript once, you learn about progressive enhancement and, as a result, restructure your coding workflow, making your life easier and leading to more profit while making a better internet.

The web is a unique medium and Universal Access is one of its core features. A non-sighted person has never picked up a book or magazine off the rack at an airport or seen a billboard on the highway, but they use the internet every day. On the internet we're all equal and that is the beauty of the hypertext world we live in and are creating.

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