Accessibility Answers: What Can I Do Now for Better Accessibility?

When I give presentations on accessibility, I often get one or two questions I’ve fielded before. I’ve collected a handful for an ongoing series of posts with my answers. I hope it helps you understand accessibility better.

If I could do a few basic things in my projects right now, what should they be?

Start simple. Focus on ensuring users can navigate your site using the keyboard. Make sure you have :focus styles where appropriate, and that each style has a reasonable contrast.

Further reading: Building a Strong Foundation with Keyboard Accessibility.

Next, make sure each control follows web standards. What do I mean by that? Items that behave like links, buttons and form fields should be just that: <a>, <button> or <input>. Don’t make your own interface elements from scratch. Use native elements, which come with accessibility features built in, and enhance from there.

Further reading: Links Are Not Buttons; Neither Are DIVs and SPANs.

Lastly, provide a <label> element for each form field in your code. Labels allow screen reader users to know what a field is meant to do or what that field needs in order to move on in an interface. Don’t make it harder.

Further reading: Accessible Form Controls and Placeholder Attribute is Not a Label.

Follow the series Accessibility Answers. Ask me a question via my contact form or Twiter.

Is This Venue Accessible?

 Sean Gray, co-owner, Fan Death Records and Accidental Guest Records, has created a site called “Is This Venue Accessible?” to track the accessibility of music venues. He’s been featured in Pitchfork, The Kojo Nnamdi Show, Vice, Village Voice and more.

Jake Reid helped Sean build the site with Accessible Zen. I’m so excited to see Accessible Zen used for something like this.

A Text Playlist

I stumbled across a Frank Chimero post from 2010 called “Text Playlist” recently. He says:

… I keep what I perceive to be a more valuable, important morgue file: one made of the best writing on the web I come across. I take this list and revisit and reread it every 4 to 8 weeks. You could almost consider it a playlist of text: it’s very select (I artificially limit it to 10–15 articles), I typically read them all in one sitting, and the order and pacing is very purposeful.

I love this idea, so I compiled my own. I have both books and web articles on my list, so I cheated a bit.

Before His Time: The Untold Story of Harry T. Moore, America’s First Civil Rights Martyr (book): I came across Harry’s story when I wrote about him as a freelance writer, and I’ve never forgotten him. His life and work remind me about focus, unwavering determination and courage.

What Should I Do with My Life? The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question (book): I first read this book after college. It’s a reminder that we all have our own path, and we need to embrace that. Also, what ends up fulfilling us for “work” may surprise us.

Navigating Stuckness (article): This piece by Jonathan Harris has stuck with me from the moment I read it for the first time, particularly this part:

We have these brief lives, and our only real choice is how we will fill them. Your attention is precious. Don’t squander it. Don’t throw it away. Don’t let companies and products steal it from you. Don’t let advertisers trick you into lusting after things you don’t need. Don’t let the media convince you to covet the lives of celebrities. Own your attention — it’s all you really have.

In the tradeoff between timeliness and timelessness, choose the latter. The zeitgeist rewards timeliness, but your soul rewards timelessness. Work on things that will last.

Inside each of us is a little ten-year-old child, curious and pure, acting on impulse, not yet caring what other people think. Remember what you were doing at ten, and try to get back to doing that thing, incorporating everything you’ve learned along the way.

As we get older, things become more complex. We seem to easily forget what really matters. Here, Jonathan reminds me to remind myself what really matters every now and then.

Wake Up Excited (article): This post by Brad Frost helps me get excited when I think that I’ve exhausted all the turns and have nowhere else to go creatively. Nothing just happens, it’s all a process that you must work through. Just keep going.

That’s my list, and obviously, I’m not going to read these, including the books, in one setting. I do hope to add articles and refine the list over time so that I can move the books to their own list, maybe here. These four items come from thinking about the writing that has impacted me most over the past 10 years or so and putting it down in five minutes. I thought I would have a longer list, but there’s always time to add to it.