Accessibility in Your MVP

As Larry Bird honed his basketball skills as a young kid in rural Indiana, he practiced the simplest shot the most. He shot more than 100 free throws a day and now holds the ninth best free throw percentage in NBA history.

He became a great (free throw) shooter because of rhythm, repetition and hard work. So what does this have to do with accessibility? The MVP I’m talking about here doesn’t stand for most valuable player, but minimum viable product. We do most things well because of the habits we form. Like Larry, we can form good accessibility habits during our design and development processes, no matter if we’re experimenting, prototyping or shipping to production.

Joe Dolson of the WordPress Accessibility team has written a post on this called Good Coding Habits for Accessibility. In his post Joe outlines a few basic things you can do to make accessibility easier which I’ll summarize:

Your Free Throws

  1. Labels on all form fields.
  2. Alt attributes on images and text alternatives on icon fonts that are just icons.
  3. Keyboard accessibility: Make sure users can access all your controls. Links are links (they go to a resource) and buttons are buttons (they do a thing)
  4. Visible focus styles: If you use the tab key on your keyboard to navigate, can you see where you are on the page?

When you’re building prototypes or early version of your product, these are your free throws. They look simple, but you still need to practice them. If the game is on the line, they could win it for you.

Okay, sports analogies over. These steps fit accessibility into your minimum viable product because they require little effort and make your code quality better. Plus, if you pay attention to them now, you won’t have to worry about silly mistakes slipping into your production code. With enough rhythm, repetition and hard work, you’ll just do them automatically, and accessibility will become much easier.