If you work in software development there are lots of teams, too many really, that don’t have people with disabilities or impairments working on them or being consulted. So it is up to you to have empathy and consider the different needs of all the people who might use your software.
As Christmas is a magical time, let’s pretend a reindeer joins your team. Here is a small list of things to think about in your project that you might learn from them to help make things better for everyone.
Reindeers don’t just love helping Santa at Christmas time. They also love online shopping, playing online reindeer games or just browsing for fun but not everything is easy to use. Many office systems are very inaccessible browser based applications. So here are some examples of the struggles reindeers have browsing the web, using office applications, or the internet in general.
Reindeers have their own special language, but are really good at understanding human languages, depending where they come from of course. Reading, however, is much more difficult for many reasons. There are no reindeer opticians who can help them with sight problems, so if they have any vision deficiencies they just have to cope with them.
To make browsing the web possible, reindeers use assistive technology such as, “text to speech” or “screen readers”, which make it possible to hear web pages. That way the reindeer don’t have to read everything. Unfortunately, not all websites make everything available to these assistive technologies, so it can be very frustrating for the reindeers.
Using assistive technology like this because it is not in someone’s primary language is one of many reasons they might be used. Of course any blind reindeers would use them but they can help neurodiverse and dyslexic reindeers too.
Other reindeers can have colour vision deficiencies (CVD), which mean they experience colours differently. CVDs can happen for many reasons such as having them from birth, as the result of an illness or just as part of the aging process. Some colours are perceived as grey, so when websites use only colour to indicate something has either worked like a file has been uploaded, or gone wrong like missing a field in a form, they do not understand. Some colour contrasts make it hard to view or differentiate between elements. Each element on a page should have a visible indicator so you know where you are and poor contrast can make that hard to see.
Visible focus is especially important when you are using a keyboard to navigate. Reindeers have special larger keyboards because they find it hard to use a mouse with their hooves. Keyboard navigation is one of the most important tools to improve websites as assistive technologies rely upon it. So it is highly important to make sure you can navigate to everything and not get trapped in one place.
Of course the other thing about not having opticians is some reindeers like to zoom in to make things bigger and easier to see. Being able to zoom to 200% makes things much easier, but not all websites can do this well. Poor responsive designs, elements overlapping or being hidden behind other parts or off screen make it very hard to use and is very frustrating.
Of course I’m not really talking about reindeers. I’m talking about the approximate 1 billion people with impairments on the planet. More if you think about the many with temporary impairments. WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind) conducts an annual survey of the top 1 million web pages using their free tool WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool). Their last survey in April 2021 found 97.4% of home pages had issues at an average of 51.4 per page. That’s over 51 million! No wonder reindeers people have so many frustrations using the web.
There are many, many more considerations to think about accessibility which can be explored on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and many more that are not, such as explaining acronyms, readability or using inclusive language.
In 2011 the World Health Organisation issued the first world report on disability. At the time it said over 1 billion people on the planet had some form of disability or impairment. This equates to 15% of the population. A decade later it is likely higher and does not take into account temporary disabilities and impairments. So when someone says to you, that’s not our target audience or demographic. You can highlight that disability spending is estimated at 8 trillion dollars so the ‘purple dollar/pound’ should not be dismissed lightly!
Make the world wide web a better and more inclusive place for everyone. Start today by asking when can we start testing for these examples or discussing accessibility. I’ve also included my website, The Big Test Theory.com where I post my monthly newsletter on accessibility (a11y) called A11y With Ady. Or find me on Twitter or LinkedIn, references and links below.
Thanks for reading, now go advocate for accessibility.
Passionate about accessibility, exploring and testing as part of the creation and development of software. As well as working as a Test Engineer and Accessibility Specialist I am also Content Creator, Lead Trainer and Coach for Software Testing and Accessibility Apprenticeships for the Coders Guild. IAAP (International Association of Accessibility Professionals) Member. Accessibility is about inclusion, not just disability. I have my own blog at The Big Test Theory.com sharing a monthly collection of accessibility news and information called A11y With Ady. It also is the home of my Periodic Table of Testing, a visual heuristic showing the breadth of the testing universe. I have given presentations to Agile and Testing groups at meetups, special interest groups and conferences across the UK and Europe.