Stan van der Heijden, lead front end developer and expert in digiaccessibility, tells more about digiaccessible development. What specifically is digi-accessible development and why is it important to engage developers who are certified in the field of digi-accessible?
Digiaccessibility Simply put, anyone can operate a website. Even if you are blind or have another disability, you must be able to use all the functionalities on a website that a person without a disability can also use. It is important and legally required not to exclude anyone.
Digitally accessible development
When we talk specifically about digi-accessible development, it is necessary to realize that websites consist of code. It is important to build that code in a structured way. If the code is not well structured, someone navigating with the keyboard or using a screen reader will go through the website in a very illogical way. If you put the code for the footer at the top and that for the navigation at the bottom, a screen reader will read that incorrectly.
By indicating via html tags which part is the header, which part is header 1, which part is header 2, which part is footer and so on, you can ensure that alternative methods are also navigated in the same way as you would with eyes and /or mouse would. The HTML tags structure the content and relate the different parts of the website to each other.
These kinds of tags are also important for you SEO, because they ensure that search engines know which parts are important, such as the headlines. This way you kill two birds with one stone with digi-accessible development.
Another example of the right structure is defining the language of your website, so that the screen reader knows in which language to read. Also think about closing HTML code correctly, because this can also prevent the screen reader from understanding the sequence.
Collaboration for accessibility
Collaboration between developers, designers and web editors is important for a good digi-accessible website. In the design phase, digi-accessible development should already be considered, because otherwise you run the risk that things are designed that cannot be developed digitally.
For example, you should be careful when using tables. If they are designed in the wrong way, they cannot be made digi-accessible in HTML, which means that a screen reader can never read it aloud. Sliders are also a problem, because they can be designed in many different ways. If designers and developers discuss this in advance, you can largely deal with these problems. Read more about digital accessibility and web design here.
In turn, the web editor must ensure that, for example, good use is made of headlines in the content. But with only a good web editor you do not have a digitally accessible website. For example, if the html code of the navigation is not properly put together, you can't even get to the content.
How do you find a good digitally accessible developer?
If you're looking for a partner to design a digi-accessible website, it's important to find a company with experience in web accessibility. Also ask whether the designers and developers are certified and have taken the necessary courses. I myself learned a lot from the digiaccessibility course, for example to think from the point of view of someone who can't use the mouse or someone who can't see the screen. That's really a mindset.
Digiaccessibility is more than a checklist
Digiaccessibility is about more than following the rules and complying with the WCAG Checklist† Some things are approved, but are just not easy to work with. That is not relevant for achieving level A, AA or even AAA, but it is for user-friendliness.
Digitally accessible development is also about more than installing the Siteimprove Accessibility Checker Plugin† There are more such tools and they are certainly useful for the basic checks. But they never give a complete picture: they do not see, for example, whether you offer alternatives, such as subtitles for a video. You can, so to speak, score 100% with such a tool and still have done a lot of wrong.
That is why it is always necessary to test by hand. It also has a lot of added value to test with a group of people with a disability, because then things always come up that you have not thought of.
At Social Brothers we master the development part and we know how the rules of the WCAG 2.1 put together, but we also have an extensive UX experience† This mainly revolves around the actual experience of users with disabilities and the testing of various options for this. This therefore goes further than achieving the mandatory level. Another strong point of our digital agency is the good cooperation between developers and designer for the best result.
When do you choose digi-accessible development?
For government agencies, including semi-government and independent administrative bodies, digi-accessible websites will be mandatory from September 23 of this year. The obligation for apps will also follow next year.
Also pay attention to whether you have to meet the requirements. We notice that our customers are not informed enough. If your organization is partially funded by government funding, you must already meet level AA of WCAG 2.1. We often play an advisory role in this, because we naturally want to deliver a website that does meet the requirements it must meet.
For other organizations and companies it is a decision that you have to make yourself. It is also a piece of responsibility and a commercial consideration. If your website or app is not digitally accessible, you immediately exclude a group of people who might be interested in your company, service or product. I also do not rule out the possibility that digiaccessibility will become mandatory for more institutions in the future.
Want to know more?
Convinced of the need for digi-accessible development? take contact on with Social Brothers!
If you want to know more, read our white paper on digital accessibility or ask for the free digiaccessibility scan .
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