May 16, 2019 is the eighth annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD); when people are encouraged to talk, think and learn about digital access and inclusion. This year, we ask both users and developers to get involved. Here's how you can participate.
Users, Let Developers Know What You Think
GAAD is an excellent opportunity to contact developers about their apps, websites, and digital content. Before you contact a developer, read through this previous AppleVis GAAD blog, which enumerates best practices for reporting accessibility issues.
Please don't simply use GAAD as an excuse to complain! Developers who have created accessible apps that you use and love deserve our thanks. Be sure to express gratitude to developers who have created accessible apps. Mention specific features and describe how easy they are for you to use. Post about the app or website to social media using #GAAD. This kind of feedback encourages developers to continue making apps accessible.
When reporting an accessibility issue, refer to it as an accessibility issue. Let the developer decide whether your issue is a bug, an unimplemented feature, or even user error, since words like "bug" have specific meanings to developers.
Developers, Go Beyond Statuatory Accessibility
It's easier than ever for developers to create accessible apps and digital content.
AppleVis provides extensive information for developers.
Thanks to these guidelines and resources, developers have created an accessible digital environment unimaginable even 25 years ago. If you've created an accessible app, video, website, or other digital content, we thank you. Your hard work is appreciated by millions of users with disabilities.
Now, let's take it to the next level.
Today, we ask software, web, and digital content developers to go beyond statutory accessibility—simple adherence to minimal accessibility standards—and strive to implement truly best-of-class accessibility. It's time for digital developers to treat accessibility as something more than a checkbox.
AppleVis recognizes outstanding apps with our App Hall of Fame. Download and try some of the past winners to inspire your own development. You can also read this AppleVis blog with ideas for taking your iOS app from good too great.
Here are some other topics for consideration.
Consider working with W3, Wordpress, and other standards organizations to expand accessibility standards where they are lacking.
You've probably labeled your buttons. But did you use a standard label? Many vision impaired users search to find standard buttons. But a lack of standardization for standard features such as a Sign In button is frustrating and time consuming. Survey de facto implementations from similar apps and websites to influence your own implementation.
Try to keep icons and their screen reader text consistent. This facilitates conversations between sighted and vision impaired users. Imagine a sighted user telling a vision impaired user to select the Menu button, but the screen reader announces the button as Hamburger Icon.
Simple user interfaces are inherently easier to navigate for all users. Consider redesigning your apps and web pages with centerline usage in mind. Nest lesser-used content and features when possible.
You've met the WCAG requirement to use high contrast colors. But is it necessary to have both light-on-dark and dark-on-light content on the same web page? This slows reading for low vision users who often prefer one color scheme or the other. Consider going beyond the simple high-contrast color accessibility checkbox and try to eliminate conflicting color schemes within a single page.
In digital videos, you've probably added a contrasting shadow box behind caption text to make it easier to read. But is the caption text read aloud? If the text is important enough to display as a caption, it's probably also important enough to be read aloud as part of the soundtrack or descriptive audio.
Your AI-powered social media app can describe images to blind users, but can it read text embedded in memes?
Remember that interface changes create a "who rearranged the furniture" feeling that impacts all users, but is especially troublesome for blind and vision impaired users. Avoid unnecessary UI changes wherever possible.
Accessibility guidelines have their place. But don't fall into the trap of simply meeting those guidelines in lieu of actually thinking about accessible design. By researching and implementing good accessible design, your app will go beyond good and become great.
Above All, Work Together
For GAAD 2019, remember working together as a team brings success for all.
Many developers lack the resources to design for accessibility. They must prioritize many features, often with a tightly constrained schedule. They depend on users with disabilities to provide accessibility feedback in a constructive and informative manner to guide future accessible enhancements. Please don't resent your important role in providing this feedback.
Users and developers often lack a common language for discussing issues of any kind, but especially accessibility issues. Developers will benefit from a two-way conversation with vision impaired users. If necessary, ask for more feedback or clarification when an issue is reported. Consider soliciting feedback in the AppleVis forum.
Many users become frustrated when they report an issue and see no improvement in release after release. To encourage users to continue providing feedback, communicate realistic timelines for when they can expect to see action on a reported issue.
The quality of apps, websites, and digital content improves dramatically when developers and vision impaired users work together. Weather Gods, winner of the 2018 Golden Apples award, is an excellent example of the positive outcome of collaborating for accessible design. Let's make this success story the norm rather than the exception.
Don't let GAAD 2019 pass by. Participate—no matter who you are.
Users, reach out to developers about their accessible apps.
Developers, innovate to create even better accessible design.
Everyone, work together for a more accessible digital future.
Together, we can all push accessibility to the next level.