New to Accessibility? This Isn't a Bad Place to Start

Why Inclusivity Matters or, Why Exclusivity Sucks

Accessibility in Web Design

Accessibility refers to the right of access. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) made discrimination directed at Americans with disabilities illegal. By requiring equal access, the ADA changed the way architects approach design. The legislation prohibited common inequalities such as hallways too narrow for wheelchairs and areas accessible only by stairway.  In other words, businesses could no longer design and maintain buildings without reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.

The web can—and must—be thought of in the same way. When web designers don't consider accessibility, we build the digital equivalent of a set of stairs with no wheelchair ramp.

When is Web Design Discriminatory?

Websites are discriminatory when they are not compatible with assistive technologies. These technologies include screen readers, braille display, and switches. We'll discuss

types of assistive technologies

in more detail later.

Quotation by Steve Krug
The one argument for accessibility that doesn’t get made nearly often enough is how extraordinarily better it makes some people’s lives.
—Steve Krug

Accessibility vs. Inclusivity

Inclusivity > Accessibility

The term accessibility is synonymous with complying with legal regulation. Take a look at this

"accessible" alternative to stairs.

The wheelchair ramp in question meets all legal standards of accessibility, but isn't exactly a positive experience for someone in a wheelchair. Whether we're talking about websites or wheelchair ramps, it's important to note that accessibility doesn't necessarily mean a positive user experience for disabled users. As digital designers, our goal should be a positive user experience.

Let's use Inclusive Design to refer to an accessible design with a positive and well-considered user experience for everyone.

How to Approach Inclusivity

A Positive User Experience is the Goal

At the heart of Inclusive Design is striving for a consistent user experience across platforms and technologies. In many cases, this means avoiding specific design patterns rather implementing any one pattern.

You may have to make compromises to accommodate for timelines or stakeholder feedback. However, it's important to understand the implications of any given "accessibility compromise" before making a decision.

What are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines?


is the Holy Grail of Accessibility Compliance

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the foundation of this site. The WCAG is the legal standard for accessibility. It's dense.

The aspiration of this site is to provide context and a reorganized approach to the document with the goal of helping designers preemptively meet and understand accessibility requirements.