04/26/2021

Keyboard with blue and white keys that show the wheelchair, assistive listening device, and person with white cane icons.

Tech Notes

Is your website accessible? It's a complicated question. There is certainly no shortage of automated scanners, tests, and overlays that purport to tell you what to fix, or supposedly "fix" it for you. But even if there was a perfect automated solution that would find and fix technical compliance issues (which there isn't, by the way, not even close), wouldn’t that be missing the point? If "accessible" is what we're aiming for, anything less is technically illegal, making it the lowest bar possible.

We think the point of accessibility is really the users: real, human people who have real, human difficulties when trying to use a product. Usability is our true aim, and the only way to really test for that is to have people actually sit down and use the product with assistive technology, such as a screen reader.

One of the most powerful assistive technologies is actually the keyboard, and anyone can run this test. This is because many of your users who have a disability will not be using a mouse, so every part of your site needs to be accessible with the keyboard alone.

For this simple test, try to navigate your website using only the “Tab,” “Enter,” and “Arrow” keys. (Sidenote, if you are using the Safari browser, by default, you have to use “Option+Tab”). Make sure you try to get into your navigation menus, or maybe try filling out a form. Could you do it? Or did you have to cheat with the mouse?

Maybe you found one of these three problems with keyboard accessibility that we commonly find:

  1. There's a missing keyboard focus indicator. That's the little outline around the button, link, or field that has your current focus as you press the “Tab” key. Every element needs a focus indicator.
  2. The focus order doesn't make sense. Maybe the keyboard focus skipped elements or it jumped around the page unexpectedly.
  3. An element is totally inoperable.

If you don't encounter any of these issues, then you're off to a good start. If not, then you have a starting set of prioritized issues to fix, initiating your journey toward true inclusion.

Our philosophy at AFB Consulting is always to focus on users first. In a world of competing priorities, we want to make sure we find and spend our resources on high-impact issues that are actually affecting who matters: your users.

If you would like to learn more about how AFB works with developers to make their apps and websites more accessible, visit our website at afb.org/consulting.

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