What can we do?
First, if accessibility is new to you (and maybe your organisation) then I would implore you to run WAVE on your digital services today. Then ensure, as a starting point, you do not have those 6 issues from WebAim’s research. Because as stated in that report, addressing just those few issues would significantly improve accessibility across the web.
But don’t stop there, please do continue your accessibility journey. While WAVE provides nice breakdowns of issues and simple explanations, as mentioned, these tools only go so far. Look at manual processes (e.g., navigating with a keyboard only), and engage in usability studies that include real users with access needs – getting this type of feedback is essential to make an inclusive and accessible service.
However, assessing our live environments and retrospectively fixing accessibility barriers is one thing, but true inclusion happens much earlier in our processes.
So, I also request you shift accessibility to the left in your projects. Traditionally, accessibility is considered at the end of the project, if not after go-live. By making small investments, or by shifting left, you can reduce costs in the long term, increase efficiency and innovation, all while promoting accessibility from within.
And this is genuinely one of the hardest, but most necessary, cultural challenges and changes for any organisation. It is described as an ‘epiphany’ (by Gareth Ford-Williams, previous head of accessibility at the BBC) when the organisation realises that instead of building it and then trying to make it accessible, it would be more efficient and effective to incorporate accessibility foundations from the beginning. It takes minimal time to build it accessibly.
But please, also look to see how you can champion accessibility. We can’t be gate keepers, and we must shift our mindsets, reflect on our roles, and act. Of course, we may sometimes get it wrong on the way, but when we do, we must keep learning and growing so we can bring our best selves to our communities and our users. There is no quick fix for this, and true inclusion is always ongoing and continuous.
Lastly, please help us come together as a community in making accessibility a first-class citizen in Umbraco. For that landscape of accessibility to change, we need software that is responsible and helps share responsibility to its users. We can achieve this by empowering our authors through Umbraco. So please, engage with the Umbraco Accessibility Team and the initiative. Contribute through testing, pull requests, and help generate meaningful discussions on the dedicated Umbraco Accessibility GitHub board.
Within this board, there are dedicated tickets relating to accessibility features that we should look to include by default within Umbraco’s core (refer to Part B of ATAG). These features are based on an EU-commissioned project named, We4Authors cluster. These features include:
- Accessible tables template.
- Ability to set and change the language of the page or paragraph level.
- Advise, inform, or generate impactful alternative text for images during image upload.
- Ability to create clear and consistent forms that can be used with assistive technologies.
- Functionality to provide a title for video embeds.
- Short contextual information within documentation.
- Live testing while authoring.
- Live testing of documents.
- Testing the content of pages.
- Testing the whole website.
As mentioned, these types of mechanisms are essential to making a difference in the grand scheme. If implemented in the right way, they will make a difference to the landscape for accessibility and our users. Many of those top issues from WebAim’s research can be directly resolved in these features. Additionally, when the legislation for accessibility changes, we can already be in a position where we know all our services aren’t at least, starting from the beginning. Instead, we will have a solid foundation ready to build on.
And remember, the reason I am bringing this to you is that I truly believe that we are all part of a very special community, and we all have the power to the change the web using Umbraco.