I’ve been thinking about accessibility a lot lately, and in the past few months, more people seem to be thinking about it too. But I sometimes wonder if this is only within my small bubble of the tech sphere.
Backing up a few months, whenever I was interviewing for a position I would sometimes drop a question or comment about accessibility. Usually it was met with confusion, as if no one was prepared to answer that. But I think the most memorable accessibility related moment was actually when my interviewer knew about accessibility. He asked me which HTML element should appear only once in the page for accessibility purposes and why. I quickly replied H1 because it sets the topic of the page and it is especially important for screen readers. My interviewer was impressed and said I was the only candidate who could answer that question. I’m not trying to brag here. Although momentarily proud, I later felt concerned. Why didn’t more candidates know how to answer that question? It was a basic accessibility rule that others designers and content creators should know.
I am not writing here to pose myself as an accessibility expert. I still have a lot to learn about accessibility, and I could do better in some of the projects I’ve worked. Furthermore accessibility is a big field, and complex applications require several different kinds of experts.
However, there are basic things that everyone should know, rules that even a small business owner should be able to implement. In a time in which drag and drop websites builders are becoming more and more popular, it is necessary to shift the way in which we talk about digital accessibility. We should shift the conversation so that anyone placing their content on the internet knows at least the basics of accessible content design.
I’d like to see more platforms nudging and working to educate content creators. For example image driven social media platforms should make alt text default fields, video platforms should encourage captions, and website builders should require H1s and alert users of improper heading usage. While this will not eradicate all inaccessible digital content, an accessibility nudge can go a long way to improving inclusion in the digital world.