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Having had over 21 years in web design, I've seen quite an evolution in website design and usability (UX). While there have been many incremental steps along the way, until now, we've only seen one major shift: when we moved from desktop to mobile. MobileFirst required a new approach to UX - from design to production. It was big. Today, we're amidst the second major shift to make our digital world accessible to people with disabilities. This is bigger. 

So, in terms of trends... yes, speed is and will continue to be an important focus. Yes, mobile and next-gen devices - in particular, wearable headgear is coming (watch Magic Leap in particular). Watch as security challenges grow. And then design as it turns and twists. None of that is new. So I say Web Accessibility will be the topic in 2018, 2019, 2020...

ACCESSIBILITYFIRST

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Like MobileFirst, AccessibilityFirst is not a fad. The principles of Universal Design are becoming a permanent aspect to all interactive design and development moving forward. The reason is simple - there simply is no choice! Its become quite clear that websites are "places of public accommodation" and therefore subject to the American Disabilities Act (ADA). Web accessibility is a legal civil right, and a growing number of law firms are diving in and trolling the web for violators. Unless a site was specifically designed, built, and maintained to conform to the de facto standard- the Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG), it is violating the ADA. So basically that's 99% of the web that is ripe for targeting.

AccessibilityFirst starts with first understanding what it is. There's quite a bit of confusion here. I recently read a great article by Manuel Matuzovińá who said

"Web accessibility is not about a certain technology. It’s not about writing the most sophisticated code or finding the most clever solution to a problem; it’s about users and whether they’re able to use our products."

If we think about accessibility as an extension of usability, I think it's easier for us to see the added value here.

Good Accessibility = Good Usability

Good Usability = More Conversions

More conversions - whether you're selling widgets, gathering fans, or getting your voice out, that's what is ultimately all about.

TRANSITIONING AWAY FROM THE MOUSE

SOME CAN'T USE A MOUSE. OTHERS CHOOSE NOT TO.

In the US, about 20% of people have a permanent disability and about 22 million people have vision loss. But all of those with temporary disabilities? Think about how many people break their arm, wrist, or hand each year? How many people have arthritis? Many can't maintain a steady hand for the precision needed to operate a mouse. In all these cases, using a mouse is either impossible or difficult.

Have you watched a programmer on their computer? Notice how rarely they touch the mouse. They use keyboard shortcuts because it's faster.

Coming over the horizon, the next big step will be when we trade in the screen, the mouse, and perhaps also the keyboard for a headset that produces an environment that surrounds us completely. Virtual Reality. Augmented Reality. Integrated Reality. Especially watch one company, in particular, MagicLeap takes this to a new level, and where the mouse becomes history.

For many, the keyboard or other assistive technologies replace the mouse. Websites must be designed and built to avoid dead-ends, and enable efficient use without the mouse.

MAKING YOUR CURRENT WEBSITE ACCESSIBLE

At Propeller, most of what we're doing is helping brands with their existing sites. We're providing consulting on creating internal policies and external statements. We're providing 360° audits that include the 3 best-practice steps

  1. Best in class software for full site automated scanning
  2. Manual code reviews of templates and unique pages
  3. Assistive technology and keyboard-only testing

What you get is a report that not only shows errors but more importantly shows you how to fix them. And instead of hiring an external team like us to do the fixing, you should work with your existing designers, developers, and content creators. They can and will learn from this, and avoid these issues in the future. 

If you're in a reactive legal situation, then you won't have much choice but to go through this best practice process, followed by periodic audit/remediation cycles. 

If you're in a proactive situation, then you do have the option of breaking this into phases where you start with automated scanning in the current fiscal, and then budget for the Manual and Assistive tech testing in the next cycle. 

NEW WEBSITE ACCESSIBILITY TIPS

If you're planning a rebuild now, then certainly you have a new requirement to add to your RFP. Beware of developers that nod their heads a lot and make you think this is easy or only requires you to alt tag all of your images. This is a new art form. It also ads new labor to a project. I don't know what is common yet, but I add approximately 10% to cover additional rounds of testing and remediation throughout the development cycle. In terms of the best practices themselves, that's an entire semester course. Just hire us.

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Learn more about website accessibility at accessibility.works