Web accessibility – how websites are created to accommodate disabled people – is changing how companies like Rushminute create websites. We asked Robbie Moore, Rushminute’s founder, to answer a few questions about how web accessibility design.
How long have you been involved in developing accessible websites?
I’d say 2 years. My most recent project was a website redesign for a disability organization on Cape Cod – Cape Organization for Rights of the Disabled (CORD). It was a fun project where I was the creative director and worked with the team at 3 Media Web to create an integrated marketing plan that included a web makeover, a new logo, new brand messaging, digital marketing, etc. All with an eye on making it inclusive.
What was your first introduction to web accessibility?
My first project accessibility project was a web makeover for 3Play Media in 2017. It makes sense they’d be one of my first projects, too, because they provide closed captions and transcriptions. They’re entire business model essentially a web accessibility service.
Was it a steep learning curve?
Not really. You know, designers are really just problem solvers, so it was simply an adjustment to more extreme color contrast. I’m oversimplifying, obviously. I do remember being overwhelmed by the initial audit, but it really wasn’t that big of an adjustment because – thankfully – 3Play Media had hired an accessibility consultant from WebAIM.
So the main change was color contrast?
I think so. I used to do “softer” color effects. I commonly used a soft grey for the body copy because to me it looked elegant. I would also do things like use a dark shade of blue for the footer and then make the text links a light blue. That looks awesome to me, but it’s unreadable for a person who’s color blind.
Were there other changes you had to make to your designs?
I think the other big challenge was buttons. I used to always present designs with buttons labeled “Read More” or “Click Here”. That’s hopelessly unhelpful for people with screen readers. They need the button to help them understand the “intent”. Now I do my designs with longer titles like “Download Website Accessibility Whitepaper” or “Schedule a Meeting”.
Does that clutter up the design?
Well, yeah, but like most designers, it didn’t take me long to realize I was being discriminatory out of ignorance. What struck me was fact that 20% of the population has some form of disability when using the web. Their impairments may be visual, hearing, physical or cognitive and it wasn’t until I heard that stat that it really struck me: this is a huge, huge deal.
Are there other challenges beyond the design?
I guess I’d have to say that it wasn’t really hard to adjust my designs. I don’t want that to sound cocky, but there aren’t that many rules for clean, modern web design that I don’t follow. Actually, web design isn’t all that creative when you think about it. We’re catering to a baked in set of expectations on the part of users. Once I start to design outside of those boundaries, my design simply isn’t going to be effective.
That said, the biggest challenge right now is the fact that businesses aren’t implementing web accessibility quickly enough. It’s expensive, but I think long-term, businesses will recoup the investment because they will be reaching 20% more of their market if their websites are accessible.
How has what you’ve learned about accessibility changed the way you approach future web design projects?
What it showed me was there is a very interesting side effect to web accessibility design: websites are “strong and clear”. What I mean by that is there’s not really any softness or elegance or finesse. The flip side is clarity and power. Web accessibility is limiting in the sense is limits the elegance of a website, but that’s not entirely bad. It’s just less range of expression, I guess you could say.
Where do you see web accessibility design going in the future?
Eventually all websites are going to look even more similar than they do now. I think we’ll see the economic power of the 20% force website designs to be more clear and powerful. And, I predict at some point we’ll see a similar innovation for web accessibility design that we saw with responsive web design. There’ll be some way to create graceful and elegant websites that automatically adapt to strong and clear websites for people with disabilities.
Rushminute is a digital marketing agency in Lincoln, Nebraska. If your company – large or small – needs help making your website accessible, call us at 402.937.9872 or send us an email. We love talking websites!