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Tuesday, September 14th, 2021

Accessibility testing

I was doing some accessibility work with a client a little while back. It was mostly giving their site the once-over, highlighting any issues that we could then discuss. It was an audit of sorts.

While I was doing this I started to realise that not all accessibility issues are created equal. I don’t just mean in their severity. I mean that some issues can—and should—be caught early on, while other issues can only be found later.

Take colour contrast. This is something that should be checked before a line of code is written. When designs are being sketched out and then refined in a graphical editor like Figma, that’s the time to check the ratio between background and foreground colours to make sure there’s enough contrast between them. You can catch this kind of thing later on, but by then it’s likely to come with a higher cost—you might have to literally go back to the drawing board. It’s better to find the issue when you’re at the drawing board the first time.

Then there’s the HTML. Most accessibility issues here can be caught before the site goes live. Usually they’re issues of ommission: form fields that don’t have an explicitly associated label element (using the for and id attributes); images that don’t have alt text; pages that don’t have sensible heading levels or landmark regions like main and nav. None of these are particularly onerous to fix and they come with the biggest bang for your buck. If you’ve got sensible forms, sensible headings, alt text on images, and a solid document structure, you’ve already covered the vast majority of accessibility issues with very little overhead. Some of these checks can also be automated: alt text for images; labels for inputs.

Then there’s interactive stuff. If you only use native HTML elements you’re probably in the clear, but chances are you’ve got some bespoke interactivity on your site: a carousel; a mega dropdown for navigation; a tabbed interface. HTML doesn’t give you any of those out of the box so you’d need to make your own using a combination of HTML, CSS, JavaScript and ARIA. There’s plenty of testing you can do before launching—I always ask myself “What would Heydon do?”—but these components really benefit from being tested by real screen reader users.

So if you commission an accessibility audit, you should hope to get feedback that’s mostly in that third category—interactive widgets.

If you get feedback on document structure and other semantic issues with the HTML, you should fix those issues, sure, but you should also see what you can do to stop those issues going live again in the future. Perhaps you can add some steps in the build process. Or maybe it’s more about making sure the devs are aware of these low-hanging fruit. Or perhaps there’s a framework or content management system that’s stopping you from improving your HTML. Then you need to execute a plan for ditching that software.

If you get feedback about colour contrast issues, just fixing the immediate problem isn’t going to address the underlying issue. There’s a process problem, or perhaps a communication issue. In that case, don’t look for a technical solution. A design system, for example, will not magically fix a workflow issue or route around the problem of designers and developers not talking to each other.

When you commission an accessibility audit, you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of it. Don’t squander it on issues that you can catch and fix yourself. Make sure that the bulk of the audit is being spent on the specific issues that are unique to your site.

Saturday, September 11th, 2021

Replying to

Friday, September 10th, 2021

Replying to

Thursday, September 2nd, 2021

Reading The Sunken Land Begins To Rise Again by M. John Harrison.

Buy this book

Tuesday, August 31st, 2021

Replying to

Lovely!

That flip-book of Powers of Ten you mentioned—is that the one made by @KelliAnderson?

https://www.kellianderson.com/remixed/

Monday, August 23rd, 2021

Checked in at The Crown and Shuttle. Beer in the beer garden — with Jessica map

Checked in at The Crown and Shuttle. Beer in the beer garden — with Jessica

Friday, August 20th, 2021

Cider looks like he’s on a Zoom call …that could’ve been an email.

Cider looks like he’s on a Zoom call …that could’ve been an email.

Friday, August 6th, 2021

Replying to

Thanks for the heads-up: should be fixed now!

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

Replying to

I’m intrigued by the philosophy and approach of astro.build

I think open-ui.org is doing great work too.

Sunday, August 1st, 2021

Dora!

Dora!

While the eyes of the world turn to Tokyo for the Olympics, the real nail-biting tension can be found at the Temptation Alley event at Bark In The Park. 🐕 🐶 🐩

While the eyes of the world turn to Tokyo for the Olympics, the real nail-biting tension can be found at the Temptation Alley event at Bark In The Park. 🐕 🐶 🐩

Thursday, July 29th, 2021

Checked in at Baker Street Coffee. Flat white — with Jessica, Tantek map

Checked in at Baker Street Coffee. Flat white — with Jessica, Tantek

Monday, July 26th, 2021

Just heard the sad news about Steven Weinberg. I’ll never forget the mind-expanding impact his book The First Three Minutes had on me when I was growing up.

Monday, July 19th, 2021

Eating jumbleberry jam on toast.

Wednesday, July 14th, 2021

Session in the sunshine. 🎶☘️☀️

Session in the sunshine. 🎶☘️☀️

Monday, July 12th, 2021

Reading A Brilliant Void, A Selection of Classic Irish Science Fiction edited and introduced by Jack Fennell.

Buy this book

Wednesday, June 30th, 2021

Reading On Writing by Stephen King.

Buy this book

Saturday, June 19th, 2021

From the comfort of my sofa, I’m tracking my brother as he runs the 268 mile route of the Summer Spine 2021 up the Pennine Way (his number is 654):

https://live.opentracking.co.uk/spine21sum/

Friday, June 18th, 2021

Replying to

Try aria-label (or aria-labelledby if there’s an ID you can point to).

As I understand it, an aria-label (or aria-labelledby) value gives an item an “accessible name” in much the same way an alt attribute does on images.

Thursday, June 17th, 2021

Wearing today’s #UXfest shirt.

Wearing today’s #UXfest shirt.