"If you want to maximize the potential of your website, you want to consider web accessibility," said Jessie Wang from Vision Loss Resources in Minneapolis. If you're considering a redesign, or need to know more information about web accessibilty take notes from the expert advice in this interview.
We invited Jessie to join us at ArcStone for an interview about web accessibility from a user's perspective. She shared a little about the tools commonly used by people like her to access information on the web.
Jessie will be providing a demo of some tools as well as participate as one of our panelists at our web accessibility event later this month. It should be mentioned that Jesse uses a screen reader to access the internet, and her iOS device is configured for the visually impaired. And if you don't yet understand web accessibility, in a nut shell, a website or application is accessible if it complies with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communication Act.
Hi Jessie! Thanks for joining us at ArcStone, would you like to share a little about yourself?
"My name is Jessie Wang and I am an Assistive Technology Instructor. I work with clients who have [recently] become visually impaired, to learn how to use screen readers. I help them use screen readers to learn how to access information on the internet as well as use common computer applications like word processors and email clients."
Jessie added that, often times there are incompatibilities between the application and the tool being used to access information. This can be even more complicated as oftentimes, there will be an update and what was once accessible will become inaccessible. However, she also stated that more and more things are becoming accessible.
How would you explain what 'web accessibility' means?
"Web accessibility means that we are able to access the same information as our societal peers."
She went on to discuss how the tools that users like her use to access information are getting better. Though the need for standardization of devices is still an area for improvement; the methods of translating software is quite inconsistent. The tools need to be simple and easy to understand for users and they're not quite there. Most importantly, businesses need to architect their information in such a way that these devices can quickly and concisely convey meaning to the user.
Could you provide an example of inaccessible information, or a poor user experience attributed to accessibility barriers?
"If you came across a website navigation menu that said 'button,' 'button,' 'button' what would you click on? [laughs]" This happens a lot when developers make applications without accessibility in mind and don't use labels for assets such as clickable buttons and CTA's.
"The biggest and most consistent problem with websites is how the owner has organized links and used words to describe them. Often [the links] say 'click here,' well, we have no idea what that means."
Jessie said that one way she can more easily navigate pages is by pulling a 'link-list' of hyperlinks on pages. She added that these should be presented in a way that concisely and clearly represents what the action of 'clicking' links will do. Otherwise, users have to take a leap of faith on a link they know little about. This is often a waste of time and more disorienting than it is for user not using accessibility assistance tools.
That's great! Would you like share other attributes of websites that contribute to a good user experience?
"Headings are also very valuable to screen readers." Marking up your website with HTML that follows proper best practices and basic information architecture is really important to users like Jessie and to Google. If Jessie is interested in the news she will scan the top headlines, which are considered <h1>, of the stories. If there is one that connects with her interest, she'll tell her screen reader to share the supporting text, this is usually <h2>. By then, she has made a decision about whether or not she wants to read the story. I'm sure you do the same! Making sure your site pages are marked up correctly will help users quickly understand if they truly are interested.
You mentioned that the internet is becoming more accessible, but would you like to add anything to that?
"Lately I have been finding websites that present new information on the page, without announcing the change of information." She points out here that sometimes CSS animations or scripts that import information base this of user interactions. Though these more complicated design decisions can add something to be appreciated by the returning user, they can be disorienting to new users, and especially to those using tools like screen readers to access information.
If you would like to learn more about the human, design and legal implications of web accessibility be sure to sign up for our event with Jessie, our team ArcStone, and other panelists happening March 22nd with the button below.
The implications for an accessible web extend beyond being able to connect with people who need to use screen readers and other tools to access information. The ArcStone blog will be featuring posts about the SEO, online marketing, UX, and even legal implications of web accessibility, so keep it here to learn more!