One day in grade school they took all of us into the gym for a presentation about eyesight. The idea was to show kids what the world looked like if you needed glasses and didn’t have them vs how it looked if you had perfect (or at least pretty solid) vision. There’s just one problem with this idea.
If you need glasses and don’t know it yet, the pictures they decided to show at this presentation are not going to be helpful.
I definitely looked at the fuzzier of the two images and laughed because it was so out of focus. How could anyone see like that and not know they needed glasses?
A year later I sat near the back of the class for the first time ever and realized I couldn’t read anything on the board. Oops.
That was really just one of the things it turns out I needed. The point is it’s easy to not see what might be needed to make things more accessible if you don’t think you personally don’t need accessibility support. I went from someone scoffing at a blurry photograph to someone squinting at the board as hard as I could until it sunk in that no amount of squinting was going to make that work.
Whether you’re looking at a website or a streetscape or transit or a slide deck, building in accessibility is one of the best things you can do. And there are lots of little, easy fixes that can be implemented quickly and cheaply.
So here are a few handy tools:
- WebAIM Color Contrast Checker
Is the contrast between the text and the background enough that most people can easily read it? Find out.
- Alt Text / Descriptions
If you’re creating a link or an image, make sure it has appropriate alternative text and a description. That way people using screen readers or other technology will know what’s in the picture or link.
A few years ago the TTC finally implemented text and audio announcements on streetcars, buses, and subways letting you know which stop you were approaching ahead of time and which one you were at when you arrived. This was huge. You can do something similar on a website by providing a breadcrumb – a text based sub-navigation showing people where they are on your site and how they can go go back. If your site is very simple (like this one) always having a text based menu available is also a huge help.
- Make your font bigger
The Evernote Clearly extension is popular for a reason: your font isn’t big enough. Small fonts look cool but they’re hard to read. Make your font bigger and people are more likely to stick around.
There are a lot of things you can do to make your project more accessible, but try going for small wins like font size, alt text, and breadcrumbs first. They’re relatively quick and easy, and will make a big difference.