The Web and Media Accessibility Group AMA 🎉View other answers to this thread
A lot of the conversation about web accessibility focuses on development, but how can other disciplines contribute to make the sites we build more accessible?
Yes! Accessibility is too often structured as a niche focus or working group within teams. Instead, accessibility needs to be thought of laterally. It is something that every single team member can positively impact at every single stage of the project.
Content strategists hold a huge role in structuring content in a clear, digestible manner:
-- Content structure's impact on how the body of a website is structured with
<aside>, for example
-- How content headers is processed through screenreaders via h tags. (I find educating writers on this so they have opinions about it! Some writers I've worked with would label their copy decks with it, which is supremely helpful!)
-- Teaching them the parameters of alt text, table summaries, etc, so that their approach to content is holistic.
Designers hold a huge role in visualising and structuring the content in a perceivable manner from the start:
- Colour palette direction and testing which colour combinations meet contrast ratios from the start, including this in the system so that future design system contributors/users are invited to think about this from the onset.
- Typography direction; baking in styles and sizes that are flexible when someone zooms in
- Reliance on visual indicators: Designers tend to love reductionism, as clean design is prioritised, so they'll rely on an icon or colour alone to visualise something. Teaching them how to stress test elements so that they work for someone who is colour blind or for a screenreader user who will not see certain elements is critical.
Product managers and owners place a huge role in ensuring accessibility is considered at all phases of the project by all project contributors:
- Building accessibility as a core acceptance criteria rather than nice-to-have, which is ensuring true inclusion
- Priotising testing strategies are in place with real users!
- Introducing accessibility to all project contributors and educating key stakeholders on its importance.
Customer service and test/support engineers have a huge role in taking in accessibility feedback from real users, which checks if theory is operating in practice:
- Empowering these folks to close the feedback loop so that real user data makes its way into future releases
- Ensuring their front-line feedback is heard by key stakeholders is critical; often their voices are the least supported in an org (from my experience.)
There are of course more disciplines that beyond this! The general principle is that everyone has a critical role in making products more accessible at every juncture!
Designers and developers are the two disciplines that are bringing the product into being and therefore shoulder the burden of being the de facto advocates, but accessibility is everyone's job.
From the first idea of a product to the end-user who runs into an issue, we should all be mindful of how our products impact others, particularly those under stress. It takes leadership buy-in, manual testing from all the disciplines, and the willingness of ourselves to advocate for a more user-friendly experience.
One of the easiest ways to see this is to have a diverse and inclusive company that brings those other perspectives to the forefront. If that isn't currently the case in your company, creating personas with various limitations can be helpful. Try to see the product through the experience of someone else, and help others understand that impact.