Digital agencies need to prioritize web accessibility
Web accessibility and inclusive design is something that affects millions of people, but it’s something that is not always a tangible issue to those of us who work in the design and development space. It's inherently less common in our industry to rely on assistive technologies ourselves, though not unheard of.
At the beginning of this year, I hosted an accessibility workshop at Bravoure alongside my coworkers Jeroen, Laura and Milan. As presenters, our challenge was: how can we make accessibility a tangible issue for our company? We needed to put everyone in the shoes of someone with disabilities.
Enter pizza. 🍕
Based on one of the most famous web accessibility lawsuits, Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, we tasked small groups to order 4 different pizzas on a few popular pizza websites here in Amsterdam. The trick: you could only use your screen reader and keyboard navigation. No mouse. And halfway through, we turned the laptop brightness off.
Only one group was able to add a single pizza to their cart, demonstrating just how inaccessible existing websites are. The groups were extremely frustrated and the task only lasted 10 minutes. This challenge successfully simulated the daily difficulties those with disabilities experience on the web.
Can you imagine that being your everyday experience?
When people think about web accessibility, they often think of blindness or color blindness. But that only makes up a small percentage of accessibility barriers. Here are some other factors to get you thinking in a new way:
- Someone who broke their dominant arm
- A new parent who, literally, has their hands full
- A student from a low income neighborhood who didn’t learn computer literacy in school
Accessibility challenges can be permanent, like blindness or epilepsy, or they can be temporary or situational, like a broken arm. If web inaccessibility doesn’t impact you now, one day it could.
Web accessibility is not just the right thing to do when designing or developing a new site; here in Europe, it’s about to be required.
The European Accessibility Act (EAA) goes into effect in 2025, covering websites and apps, as well as ticketing machines, ATMs, e-readers, etc. Accessibility lawsuits like Robles v. Domino’s have been on the rise for the past decade, and with the new law going into effect soon, companies need to make accessibility a priority and partner with agencies that are doing the same.
The overall goal for our workshop was to show everyone in our company that web accessibility impacts every single team member.
Strategists and project managers have the incredible responsibility of making our clients care about accessibility as much as we do, making sure they buy into the mission of the EAA and are willing to pay that little bit more to make the site fully accessible.
Designers need to think about web accessibility long before designing a website. Accessibility should be considered as early as the branding stage, making sure brand colors will pass contrast rules, for example.
And developers, of course, have to put it all into action.
When our development team reconvened a few days later, we created a list of actionable accessibility steps we can take starting now to make our sites more user-friendly for all users.
There’s no reason to wait until 2025. If your company isn’t prioritizing accessibility yet, it’s past time to get started.
Accessibility shouldn’t have to be a law for it to be something that every company wants to offer all of their customers; it is the right thing to do. Because everyone should be able to do something as simple as order a pizza.