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Accessibility - Beyond the Screen Reader

September 29, 2015
Source: Creative Bloq

Web accessibility expert Denis Boudreau explains why we need to design for impaired vision users as well as screen readers.

For most people, Web accessibility means making content compatible with screen readers. As a designer, what first comes to mind might be providing alt text for images. As a developer, it might be adding WAI-ARIA roles and properties to the source code. As a content strategist, it might be unambiguous link text that makes sense on its own. All of these are good starting points, but ultimately, who truly benefits from these things? Blind people using screen readers, but who else?

285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide. Of which, 39 [million] are blind and 246 [million] have low vision. I did the math: there are precisely 6.30769239 times as many people who have low vision than there are people who are blind. This ratio is staggering. Why, then, are designers and developers still focusing mostly on screen reader compatibility?

The needs of blind users are obviously important. But until we invest at least 6.3 times as much effort making content accessible to low vision users as we spend making content compatible to screen readers, it will be safe to say we are missing what it means to create content that is truly accessible to the widest possible range of users.

Editors Note: The full article was posted online on September 1, 2015. It contains images and additional information that readers can access via the alt text (photo captions).

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