The ability to code accessible sites is critical for web developers. There are steps you can take to help ensure the sites you build are accessible.
Importance of Your Role
Developers play a vital role in making a website accessible.
From a developer's perspective, the goal is to code a website or web application that, at minimum, meets Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA standards. Your website or web application should follow the POUR guiding principles of accessible technology:
- Perceivable—Users must be able to find every item using one of their senses.
- Operable—Users must be able to interact with the site and all of its features.
- Understandable—Content and functionality should be easy to follow.
- Robust—Sites should work with various technologies and consider future technologies.
Learn more about the POUR guiding principles (WebAIM).
Start with an Accessible Template
To kickstart your project, copy from an existing template or similar project. Ensure that the items you start with are already accessible. Fortunately, frameworks like Bootstrap are starting to incorporate accessibility into their code, and more importantly, into their examples.
Many examples on the web claim to be accessible but may not be, or they may follow a different, less rigorous standard. Always check the accessibility of code snippets, templates, and frameworks before you implement one into your project.
Use the Folwell Web Theme
The University's Folwell Web Theme has been constructed to be accessible out of the box. Accessible components are included in the enterprise versions of Drupal 8 and Drupal 8 Lite. The Pattern Library site hosts Folwell code for developers working outside of Drupal.
All Folwell components note the accessibility measures that have been built in to each component. Check the "Accessibility" tab toward the bottom of each individual component page for more information.
Write Accessible Code from the Beginning
Accessibility should be incorporated as soon as you start to write code. At first glance, the WCAG standards can seem confusing and complicated. In addition, it can be daunting to have to learn how to use different adaptive technologies like screen readers. While there is a learning curve at the beginning, it takes about the same amount of time to write accessible code as it does to write inaccessible code.
Fortunately, you can make the websites and applications you code accessible—or mostly accessible—by focusing on learning skills in just a handful of areas.
You should audit and test for web accessibility frequently during development.
View your websites and web apps in a browser to ensure they display and function correctly. Browser plug-ins and tools can help you audit as you code. Testing your website or web application using a screen reader is recommended but not always necessary.
Code for All Adaptive Technologies
We're coding to make information accessible by people who use any and all types of adaptive technologies. Screen readers are but one example. Learn more about the adaptive technologies used on campus, and consider the effect of accessible code on all of your potential users.
Build in Reminders
In the messy process to get a website or web application coded, it is easy to forget or forgo accessibility. We recommend these strategies:
- Create and use a developer checklist as you work. Example checklists: WebAIM checklist and A11y project checklist
- Make an accessibility statement part of your code commit template.
- Make basic accessibility testing part of the quality assurance or user acceptance testing process.
- Make accessibility a requirement by creating a user story for every project.