There are a number of things developers have to consider when developing for the web, but one thing that may not get enough attention is the accessibility of their application. The notion of web accessibility is not new, with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) publishing the first Web Content Accessibility Guidelines in 1999, but it is still something not enough developers are putting effort into. As a result, Progress has released new guidelines to help developers better understand web accessibility and how they can develop their apps to adhere to it.
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“The web is the ultimate equalizer. If you have access to an Internet connection you have access to essentially unlimited knowledge at your fingertips, no matter who you are or where in the world you may be from. Unfortunately, this is not actually true for folks that need assistance to access the Internet. While accessibility standards have been around for some time it hasn’t been until recently that accessibility has become a focus for websites and applications,” said Carl Bergenhem, product manager for Kendo UI at Progress.
Additionally, it’s hard to build something that developers don’t understand, it takes a lot of work to maintain, and a majority of developers’ clients aren’t necessarily going to be affected by a disability, Bergenhem explained. “Developers are struggling with implementing accessibility compliance because application requirements are becoming more complex while deadlines stay the same or get even tighter. Ensuring accessibility compliance takes time and dedication. Unfortunately as projects fall behind and deadlines loom, accessibility is one of the first things to go,” he said.
The Progress Web Accessibility Guidebook for Developers is designed to make web accessibility as much as a priority as any feature or bug fix. The guidebook covers why accessibility is important, current legislation that is working to make accessibility a mandatory feature, types of disabilities and accessibility best practices, and an introduction to assistive technology.
The guide also provides best practices on how organizations can ensure its developers understand web accessibility through education, documentation, usability and accessibility.
According to the W3C, when websites, mobile apps, technologies and tools are not designed to for people impacted by a disability, they create barriers and exclude people from accessing the web.
“The Web must be accessible to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with diverse abilities. Indeed, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes access to information and communications technologies, including the Web, as a basic human right,” according to the W3C’s website.
The latest version of W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines adds new criteria for low-vision requirements and improves guidelines around cognitive, language and learning disabilities. It also goes over four principles of accessibility: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
“While it is nice to read over and discuss the standards and how to follow them, we cannot improve our knowledge around accessibility without actually attempting to implement it. Learning by doing is the only true way to improve. So, attempting to follow accessibility standards, testing the result to see what feedback is provided, and implement the suggested improvements will help any developer become more familiar with accessibility,” said Bergenhem.
Other resources developers can access on web accessibility include:
- Understanding the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines by Mozilla
- A free web accessibility course by Google
- And We have web accessibility in mind, an organization dedicated to providing education to developers and businesses.