Ideas for digital accessibility

Simple ideas and tools for those who believe in accessibility

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“Ideas for digital accessibility” was a blog content from Clube de Criativos de Portugal, CCP Tonic, published between November 2017 and November 2018 with the simple objective of helping the work of creative industry professionals such as designers, developers, or any other profile, by sharing monthly tooltips related to digital accessibility.

The issue of digital accessibility is far from being a key concern in the day to day creative industry, responsible for helping brands communicate their products and services every day. However, it is also true that the essence of this theme is closely linked to many and small decisions that are made during the creative process without the awareness that, on the other side of any digital product, may be someone with some kind of disability and because of that may have some difficulty using all what brands have to offer.

“Ideas for digital accessibility” do not solve any of the essential issues related to this topic from creative industry professionals. All of these references are not a magic potion which will make the digital products produced by these teams the most accessible possible. These ideas are just another contribution to demystify the concept which the subject of digital accessibility is too complex to work with. All references are free tools available online to anyone who wants in their daily work, whether as a designer, programmer or any other professional, to help the World Wide Web become increasingly a place made from and for everyone.

To help the entire creative and technology community create increasingly accessible websites, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the leading organization for implementing best practices on the World Wide Web, has developed a very concrete set of guidelines: WCAG 2.0. According to WCAG 2.0 and depending on their implementation, websites may be rated on a compliance scale of A, AA or AAA, with A being the lowest compliance level and AAA the highest.

To talk about accessibility is to talk after letting go of preconceived concepts of inspiring examples. That’s exactly what this Apple movie tells us about, designed to promote work on the accessibility of its products, but here it has the inspiring input of Sady Paulson, a US woman who despite her cerebral palsy doesn’t give up telling stories that fascinate her through technology.

Dyslexia contrary to what you may think is a problem that affects a very significant number of people around the world. For example in Portugal, some studies indicate that about 5.4% of school-age children suffer from dyslexia and it is estimated that this percentage rises to close to 10% when we speak of adults. Against this background, Quartz in partnership with Victor Widell has developed a browser plugin that allows a user to simulate how any site is viewed by someone with dyslexia

“Diversity and Design” is a collection of articles edited by the user experience, usability and “digital product design” blog, UXDESIGN.CC. This blog section provides a set of 18 articles that explore different angles of the topic of digital accessibility, embodied in personal views of a very wide range of perspectives on the relationship of digital products and their use by people with different types of limitations.

For all designers who design their prototypes in one of the programs of the moment — Sketch — there is a plugin that allows them to do a series of small tests related to the accessibility of their products within seconds. Stark is a plugin for Sketch that even allows within the drawing software itself to test things like the color contrasts of elements or how users with different types of color blindness will use the product.

Edited by A Book Apart, Laura Kalbag’s book “Accessibility for everyone” explains very simply some of the most important concepts of accessibility and their relationship to digital product programming. Like any book by A Book Apart, this publication is available in print and digital and uses very objective language. Throughout the text a number of useful tips are presented for any of the project development phases, whether in design or programming, until planning stage. A must-read book for everyone looking for the best accessibility of their products.

The accessibility transforming process of digital products is not a path that has begun now. It has been a while since many different technology-related brands in everyday consumer life have been working in this area in different ways. Microsoft shares through this platform much of the thinking, work and resources it has been developing over time in inclusion area.

Color has in digital accessibility a fundamental importance. It is capable of transmitting to each user an endless amount of information of whatever size or depth. In a very easy way, during the process of designing an interface it is also possible to test — using tools such as Contrast ratio — how our product’s color palette relates to WCAG accessibility standards while realizing the level of compliance (A, AA or AAA) are the colors of the digital product we are designing.

Smashing Magazine is one of the world’s leading online publications for professionals developing all kinds of digital products. Whether you are a programmer or a designer, everyone will find many articles at Smashing that are extremely relevant and practical to the needs of their daily lives. Also the topic of accessibility takes place in this publication. In its own category, Smashing Magazine is keen to put together a very interesting set of articles that address different dimensions of the challenge which is to work on the topic of digital accessibility.

In the most recurring discussions in the creative community it’s easy to call accessibility a complex topic. It is actually a subject that requires some study. However, it is far from being a difficult subject to make tangible in what is the day-to-day activity of creative teams. To prove it, designer Karwai Pun of the GOV.UK digital team has created a set of posters that interestingly summarizes some of the topics that are important to keep in mind when working on accessibility in digital products. Posters are available online in several languages.

Accessibility, especially digital, is closely related to the creation of global products, that is, products that people can use regardless of their culture. But in this global challenge, language, especially its typographic representation, could be a major barrier. Not many typeface families can support a very large number of languages. Aware of the challenge and importance of not excluding any connected world culture that digital allows, Google in partnership with Monotype has created Noto, a typeface family that supports over 800 languages ​​across a 100,000 different characters.

Access + Ability is the name of an innovative exhibition by Cooper Hewitt of New York that brings together in one space different types of products, analog and digital, that somehow seek to improve the daily lives of people with disabilities. Open to the public until September 2018, it is an excellent opportunity to better understand everyday life and the challenges of accessibility in many dimensions.

Digital accessibility has always been a very favorable topic for the involvement of creative and technological community. Over time the community has brought the topic to discussion from various perspectives through research and content creation. A List Apart, one of the currently most relevant sites on technology, has a space dedicated precisely to the theme of accessibility. Here you can find several articles that address the issue of digital accessibility from different angles, such as the importance of design, programming and building code.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) in version 2.0 developed by the W3C Consortium is a very important tool as a guide for creating increasingly accessible digital products. As a tool they bring together a very broad set of directives that can greatly improve code, but not only. To make it easy to follow WCAGs throughout the project, the Accessibility Checklist makes it easy to read these standards by segmenting their applicability according to the level of compliance (A, AA and AAA).

For someone used to think and build messages using images it is hard enough to imagine that online browsing can be done only by sound. Almost all blind users of the World Wide Web navigate through tools called screen readers. These tools do more than translate into words the code that supports each of the websites. ChromeVox is precisely one of these tools. Even for someone with normal eyesight visiting a website through a screen reader can be a very challenging experience.

Many of Google products have increasingly integrated concerns about their accessibility for people with different types of disabilities. The universe of products of this brand is quite wide and also the concern on this subject. Google Accessbility is a space where the brand describes everything it has done in this field across its various products, while seeking to engage the entire technology community in this discussion of accessibility and its importance in technology.

Accessibility Wins is a web developer blog by Marcy Sutton that seeks to gather a number of good practice references in the digital work on accessibility. The blog brings together different types of references that can range from digital projects with an interesting approach to accessibility, to innovative user experience or user interface tools or solutions. Regardless of what type of reference you might find on the blog, one thing is for sure: Accessibility Wins.

The subject of accessibility cannot be said to be something forgotten in Apple products. Through various concerns and approaches towards many brand products, it seeks very concretely to incorporate tools so that a larger number of people can use them in their daily lives. “Designed for Everyone” is a series of videos that portray the daily lives of people with different types of disabilities and how this brand products enable greater integration with the world, on and offline.

The acronym WebAIM actually means “Web Accessibility In Mind” and represents a nonprofit organization based at the University of Utah in the United States that has become a very relevant reference in the field of digital accessibility over time. On its website you can find a very complete collection of content and resources related to the subject which in different ways provides very useful tools for those who believe they can make the internet an increasingly inclusive place through design and code.

GOV.UK, the British Government information portal, is by far one of the most interesting user experience processes applied to the government context that we have seen in recent years. The project — which in itself would be very interesting to know — gains even greater added value when it also places digital accessibility in its sphere of concern. In this blog through its own content dedicated to accessibility it is possible to know some articles that report very simply and without complications various ideas, challenges and solutions developed by teams so that digital accessibility never ceases to be also a success factor of the project in GOV.UK

Accessible Rich Internet Applications, or better known as ARIA, are fundamentally a set of recommendations designed to make content — but especially World Wide Web applications — more accessible to people with some kind of limitation. In practice we talk about a set of guidelines for development of online applications, especially those using Ajax or Javascript. In this informative space, published by Mozilla, it is possible to know some documentation associated with ARIA, such as articles, blogs or some good working examples with these recommendations linked to digital accessibility.

There are the ideas, the good ideas, and then the genius ideas, those that can change the world starting with small things in people’s daily lives. And ColorADD is one of those ideas. Created by Portuguese, Miguel Neiva, ColorADD is a color identification system that allows people with different types of color blindness to identify many of the color shades of everyday objects. The code, through its own iconography on different support systems, can be applied even in digital applications that use color as a vehicle for the transmission of some kind of utility or functional information.

The presentation “The Gold Standard — accessible web components”, by Alice Boxhall and Rob Dodson at the Google I / O conferences, summarizes simply and through many visual examples many of the challenges faced when creating digital experiences. This presentation which also provides the authors’ notes on each slide shows how the user experience can be equally valuable even though in many situations the computer keyboard is the main interface between the person and the product.

Digital accessibility is increasingly a concern of the largest technology companies. IBM, aware of this importance, has made an effort in recent years to bring this concern to the center of its product design and ideation processes. As a result, he edited a handbook in 2017 with some of the key recommendations for his own teams regarding digital accessibility. The content of the handbook is available for consultation online and can be downloaded in pdf format for free.

WebAIM is a non-profit organization dedicated to the study and production of resources on accessibility. In line with its mission, the organization edited an infographic in 2013 that summarizes in a very simple but graphic way some of the most important topics designers should keep in mind when designing any digital product. The infographics feature is available in image format but also in html code version.

Accessibility is increasingly a multidisciplinary work that must involve different professional profiles. From designers to programmers to content editors, it is very important that the whole team is aligned with each other on the topic and within the area of ​​competence of each professional can add value to the final product. The resource “accessibility guidelines checklist” is nothing more than a checklist inventory of what designers, engineers, project managers, quality managers and editors can’t forget to look before launching a new digital product.

Edited since 2015 by a team led by designer John Maeda, the Design in Tech report annually brings together a broad set of analisys and insights into how design and technology are transforming the reality we know and accept today. In the 2018 edition, in addition to the accuracy and relevance of the information contained in these reports, it is possible to find a very concrete reference to “inclusive design”. In the report you can find an entire chapter devoted to this topic, from a perspective that reinforces the idea that inclusive design not only enhances products but also companies’ businesses.

BBC has always been a brand concerned with digital accessibility. Throughout its history many initiatives have in one way or another tried to make BBC products accessible to the largest number of users. Although it has some time, the BBC’s “My web my way” area remains an interesting learning space for those concerned about the accessibility of their digital content. Among many things, you can find several practical recommendations for the different types of limitations that users with special needs may have.

As much as we may think about digital accessibility in abstract, the topic takes on another dimension give a face to this challenges. Thinking about users with specific needs is fundamentally about meeting personal stories. From this perspective, Microsoft, through this set of videos, portrays the daily challenges of some people with first-person experiences with accessibility and its path of affirmation as a concern, digital or not, of a society made up of equality and particularities.

Wave is a free extension available for Google Chrome browser that allows you to easily diagnose digital accessibility to any online page within seconds. Developed by WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind), a nonprofit organization based at the University of Utah in the United States, this extension provides any user with a very visual and comprehensive view of the key accessibility issues for the pages they visit daily.

Adobe products are used every day by professionals around the world who are connected to different areas of creativity. With the help of these tools, creatives, designers, programmers, and many other players, create, day after day, digital products that millions of users will then use. This area of ​​Adobe’s institutional site presents many of the brand’s concerns about accessibility, whether it’s in its own products or the impact it has on the entire creative industry. Here you can not only find the brand’s vision and mission from this perspective, but also some resources, statistics and success stories.

While digital accessibility is not a recurring topic in discussions around everyday digital product subjects, through a simpler online search it will not be difficult to find tools and documentation to help any professional get to know the topic a little better. However, of the many contents and guides that can be found in these searches, there are very few as complete as the 18F Accessibility Guide. This guide, edited by the US Government’s 18F Guides project, brings together, over twenty-two chapters, several practical tips for both designers and programmers on how to optimize their digital products, oriented to users with different special needs.

The challenges for digital accessibility programming are immense. Design plays a major role in creating increasingly affordable digital products, but it is in programming and integrating the different technologies on the World Wide Web that the task becomes more complicated. In this video, recorded in the 2015 edition of the Epic FEL conference, software engineer Seren Davis explains some of the problems associated with using icon fonts in code from a digital accessibility perspective.

Sapo is very clearly one of the brands that will always be linked to the history of digital in Portugal. Sapo has contributed in many ways over time to much of the path that Portuguese users have made in discovering a whole new world, the World Wide Web. Also on the subject of digital accessibility it is possible to find some literacy work done by Sapo, through the project “Accessibility Rules and Tips”. Organized essentially by two broad areas, accessibility for websites and accessibility for mobile applications, this guide explains with practical examples what should and should not be done so that each product can be used by as many users as possible. In addition to all this documentation, this Sapo guide also provides a checklist, very useful when checking where our digital products are accessible.

Unidade Acesso is a structure of the Portuguese Government Foundation for Science and Technology whose mission is to promote and value digital inclusion and accessibility. The Unit essentially works as an open access online knowledge center and brings together a very wide range of resources, articles, standards, references and tools, all about digital accessibility, almost all in Portuguese. In addition to all this, it is also possible to find online on Unidade Acesso page, some studies that illustrate the panorama of digital accessibility in Portugal, with special attention to the government area.

Access Monitor is an automatic validator for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) developed by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) Access Unit (Unidade Acesso). Available online for free, this tracking tool allows any user to test and understand the degree of compliance between A, AA and AAA of the pages they visit daily with digital accessibility best practices defined by the W3C consortium.

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