The Quick UX Accessibility Checklist

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Accessibility isn’t just about making sure people with disabilities can use your product.

It benefits everyone, including users without disabilities.

It helps us to use apps better when we’re on the move, navigating one-handed, in low-light areas or when we can’t have sound turned on.

In fact, subtitled Youtube videos increase view time by more than 12% and are watched an average 91% to completion. While Facebook reports 85% of videos are watched with captions turned on.

In this article, we’ll share a quick reference accessibility checklist and dig deeper into what you need to know to create inclusive and universal user experiences.

The 13 Guidelines of Web Accessibility Checklist

Provide text alternatives for all non-text content.1.1
Provide synchronized alternatives for multimedia.1.2
Ensure that information and structure can be separated from presentation.1.3
Make it easy to distinguish foreground information from its background.1.4
Make all functionality operable via a keyboard interface.2.1
Allow users to control time limits on their reading or interaction.2.2
Avoid flashing content that could trigger seizures in some users.2.3
Make it easy to find and navigate content with clear menus and titles.2.4
Make it easy for users to avoid and correct mistakes.2.5
Make text content readable and understandable.3.1
Make the placement and functionality of content predictable.3.2
Support compatibility with user agents and assistive technologies.4.1
Ensure that content is accessible or provide an accessible alternative.4.2

There Are Four Main Types of Impairments and Disabilities

It’s useful to be aware of the more common forms of accessibility needs so we can empathize with our users and design for them appropriately.

A significant percentage of the world’s population has a disability that requires accessible design.

The most common forms of accessibility needs are:

Visual Impairments – Low vision, color blindness, and total blindness.

Auditory Impairments – Hearing loss and deafness.

Motor Disabilities – Problems with reaching, grasping, holding or typing.

Cognitive Disabilities – Learning difficulties, memory loss and speech impairment.

Although we can’t often see impairments or disabilities, they’re much more common than you might think. If you need some statistics to convince stakeholders that accessibility is important, here’s a list that paints a picture of how prolific some of these additional needs are.

  • 15% of the world’s population has some sort of disability. (WHO)
  • 217 million people worldwide have moderate to severe vision impairment. (WHO)
  • 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women have trouble seeing shades of red, yellow, and green. (CBA)
  • 6.5 million people in the United States have an intellectual disability. (SO)

Many people with additional needs use assistive technologies like braille displays and screen readers to help them understand the content on the web. It’s also common for people to have accessibility settings that change the font size, brightness, and color contrast to help them read the content on the screen more easily.

All Interfaces Should Be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust

There are four principles that are important for making sure that web content can be accessed by everyone, no matter what their abilities are.

These lay the foundation for what it means for anyone to access and use web content. And they act as categories for each accessibility guideline. 

The four principles of accessibility are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

Each principle addresses a different aspect of accessibility, but all four are equally important and interrelated.

Perceivable – The first principle, perceivable, means that all information and user interface components must be presentable to users in a way they can perceive. This includes providing alternatives for non-text content such as images, videos, and audio, so that users who are blind or have low vision can also access the content. It also means providing captions for audio and video content.

Operable – The second principle of web accessibility is that users should be able to use a range of input devices to navigate and interact with web content. This includes providing keyboard accessibility, as not all users may be able to use a mouse or touch screen. It also means ensuring that any time limits on tasks are reasonable and can be extended if necessary, and that users have enough time to complete tasks.

Understandable – The third principle is that web content should be easy to understand for everyone, even those with disabilities. This includes using language that is clear and concise, providing navigation and labeling that is consistent, and avoiding layouts that are complex or confusing.

Robust – The fourth principle, robust, means that web content must be designed to work with a range of user agents and assistive technologies, both current and future. From screen readers to braille displays. This principle includes using standardized HTML and CSS, ensuring that content can still be accessed even if JavaScript is disabled, and using semantic markup to enhance accessibility.

It’s important to ensure that these four principles are met in order to make sure that everyone can access and use web content. If any of these are not true, users with disabilities will not be able to use your products.

By following the four principles of web content accessibility, UX Designers can ensure their web design or application is accessible to everyone. The more inclusive and open our digital environments are, the better off we’ll all be.

Most UX Design Teams Aim for AA Standards

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines help us to make the web more accessible to everyone.

They give us instructions and criteria for how to make sure our designs are clear and easy to understand regardless of your visual, motor, or cognitive abilities.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines help us to make the web more accessible for everyone by giving instructions and criteria on how to make designs clear and easy to understand regardless of ability.

There are three tiers within the accessibility standards to help you achieve an inclusive user experience:

Level A – The minimum level of accessibility and contains basic requirements that must be met to make a website usable and accessible.

Level AA – The second tier of accessibility, which builds on the minimum requirements from Level A and adds additional criteria to make the website more accessible.

Level AAA – The highest level of accessibility, which includes features that go beyond the requirements from Levels A and AA, making the website even more accessible for people with disabilities.

Most organizations aim to achieve AA standards and aspire to AAA where possible. Although AAA is the gold standard, it’s not always achievable across an entire website because – depending on the context – they can be technically difficult to implement and involve a lot more time and effort to maintain.

Even if we did meet AAA standards, our websites still wouldn’t be 100% accessible for people with some additional needs or combinations of them.

That said, achieving AA gives us a good baseline to work off and a realistic target.

Accessibility Benefits Everyone, Including People Without Disabilities

Accessibility isn’t just about making sure people with disabilities can access your content.

Ensuring that your content is accessible benefits everyone, including users without disabilities.

For example, using more descriptive link text makes it easier for all users to find what they’re looking for quickly and accurately.

Making your content accessible benefits everyone, including those without disabilities.

Having captions on video content helps people watch the videos even if they can’t have the sound on. For example, when watching videos on public transport or around a sleeping partner.

People without disabilities even rely on accessibility features like adjusting contrast, font size and screen brightness depending on their context. If you’re reading a screen outside on a sunny day, or letting someone scan a QR code from your phone, then screen brightness can make a big difference.

All of these features, which are designed to help people with disabilities access the web, can benefit everyone.

4 Tips for Making Sure Your Designs Are Accessible

Testing for UX accessibility is an essential part of designing inclusive experiences that can be accessed by people of all abilities and needs in a range of different contexts.

Here are 4 best practices you can use to make sure your designs can be accessed by the most amount of people possible:

Use automated testing tools: Automated testing tools can help you find accessibility issues on your website or application quickly and easily. Some popular tools include Axe, Lighthouse, and Tenon. These tools scan your website or application and identify issues with color contrast, alt text, and other accessibility features.

Conduct manual testing: Automated testing tools can help, but they are not perfect. So it is important to also do manual testing. This is when you use a keyboard to move around the website or application, test with a screen reader, and look for other issues that automated tools might not find.

Test with real users: One of the best ways to test for accessibility is to have real users with disabilities test your website or application. Usability testing, can help you identify any issues that might not be apparent through automated or manual testing.

Check for compliance with WCAG: Run through the accessibility checklist provided in this article as a quick reference, or dig deeper into the WCAG guidelines to go deeper into the requirements. See how close you can get to AAA, and make sure you do your best to reach A and AA standards.

Using a mix of techniques is the best way to check for accessibility. While having automated tools can help speed up the process, it’s good to know the accessibility guidelines off by heart at a high level so you can keep them in mind as you’re making design decisions.

Key Takeaways

  • To make an accessible user experience that can be used by everyone, run through the accessibility checklist and check each accessibility guideline.
  • Inclusive and universal design helps us to reach the most amount of users possible.
  • UX designers can make sure they have an accessible design by usability testing it using a screen reader and other assistive technology.
  • Website accessibility benefits everyone, including people that don’t have disabilities and additional needs.
  • The main types of accessibility needs are from people with a cognitive disability, visual impairments, auditory impairments, and motor disabilities.
  • Best practices for accessibility testing includes using automated tools, manual testing, checking against W3AG, and conducting user research with real users.
  • Accessible UX means making sure that an interactive element can be perceived by all users including the keyboard user who navigates without using a mouse or touch screen.
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