“If you have a disability, what’s the hardest thing about browsing the web?”
asked Safia Abdalla in a tweet on June 3rd, 2017. In the axesslab article “Accessibility According to Actual People with Disabilities,” author Hampus Sethfors reviews the main topics brought up in the thread that followed the catalytic tweet.
Lack of Captioning
The most common complaint was the lack of captioning on videos. Captioning is hardly a convenience benefiting the disabled alone; anyone who has wanted to watch a video somewhere they lacked headphones and weren’t alone knows how useful captions can be. Auto-captioning, alas, solves nothing; lack of accuracy is a drastic understatement when it comes to how unhelpful YouTube’s auto-captioning is. This is important to be aware of when you are trying to create a video; much of your intended audience may be too frustrated to bother.
Another big offender was the webpage touting motion-graphics. Busy websites filled with distracting videos and animations aren’t much fun for anyone to deal with, but they can be especially frustrating for disabled users. People with cognitive impairments will often struggle to focus when a web page is full of advertisements, posters, motion and graphic images, so it’s important to make sure your content isn’t hidden behind all that bustle.
Walls of Text
Walls of text are always a bad idea. The case against walls of text is one we can all understand; TL;DR is a common sentiment these days, but large blocks of text can be all the more frustrating for those with cognitive impairments or dyslexia. Small-sized text is a no-go as well, and low color contrast or elaborate fonts can make it difficult for users to glean information. Anything that makes your content harder to read is going to be all that much harder for someone with a disability, and ultimately is going to put off users. Bright colors can be a problem as well, specifically for people with low vision. Using a lot of color can also make your site hard to navigate for those who are colorblind, especially if some of your content relies on color, like a heat map. Low vision problems are made all the worse when users have trouble zooming or trying to increase font-size.
Mouse interaction is still required in order to navigate on many sites, which can impair those who are physically disabled and aren’t’ able to manage a mouse. Tiny touch targets are a struggle for similar reasons. Many cognitively and physically disabled people struggle with the preciseness required to hit tiny icons; those who can’t hold their hands steady, for instance, would find navigating such a website nearly impossible.
Finally, the CAPTCHA was discussed in this article as an ultimate accessibility failure. This is a valid point; as CAPTCHA requires one to read text that fits all of the aforementioned problem areas, it excludes anyone with learning disabilities, visual impairments or cognitive disorders. The article did fail to address the “out loud” CAPTCHA option, but the icon is quite small, so in that regard it’s not much of a saving grace.
Overall, it’s wise to stick to a policy of “if grandma couldn’t read it, I need to change it.” Not only are there federal regulations requiring accessibility, but you aren’t doing yourself any favors by denying a large portion of the population access to your material.