“A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences” by Whitney Quesenbery; Rosenfeld Media

A well designed web page, mobile app, or software program should be usable for anyone. The importance of usability as a part of good design has become mainstream knowledge, but lagging somewhat behind is the importance and skills of designing for accessibility. A mistake that producers and developers make is thinking that accessibility is just about making things work for people with disabilities, with various stereotypes around what that means. They often use the “We don’t have any disabled users”  excuse as an easy to dismiss the need to spend much effort on it, or in some cases even consider accessibility at all! It is estimated that 10% of the world’s population has some kind of disability and most of us will experience disability at some time, particularly as we get older.  Disabilities can be temporary and situational, including everything from a broken arm, forgetting your glasses, working in a loud (or quiet) environment, and not using an interface in a foreign language. Accessibility is about universal design, making things easier and more useful for all. This book then provides guidance to help product designers and developers to consider the needs of a diverse range of people, and how to use the standards to create accessible user experiences. Another common excuse that can be heard is “this isn’t my job”. Accessibility is the responsibility of the team as a whole, and in each chapter of the book a “Who’s responsibility is..” section  provides guidance on where the responsibility for different areas rests within a project and identifies the decisions that need to be made for the whole the project.

The book is primarily aimed at web designers and developers, and refers to the WCAG 2.0 guidelines, along with universal design, and design thinking principles; but contains discussions about the issues that will be of interest to others developing software and interested in usability design in general.

Following the introduction a group of realistic personas is described in detail representing people from a wide variety of backgrounds and skill sets with different needs to provide an explanation of the difficulties those users encounter. These characters are used in discussions throughout the book to highlight how accessible design can have a positive impact on people’s lives. Chapters are provided on coding for standards and best practices, defining clear goals for the project that include designing an equal experience for all, designing easy interaction and ensuring that a site works with the keyboard and assistive technology, orientation and navigation, clean and customisable presentations, plain language, accessible media, and designing an inclusive experience. The final chapters detail how to bring accessibility into an organisation and how to go to about making your products accessible. Appendices are provided with a checklist of the accessible practices in the book, a cross reference for WCAG and further reading.

This is an easy to read and informative guide on the issues, techniques, and real world examples of how to make accessible websites following the WCAG standards and universal design techniques.

For more information, see the O’Reilly Product page.

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