When coding web pages it is easy to forget that not all users will experience them in the same way.
Blind people or people with poor eyesight need to rely on screen readers. People who don’t have arms use a stick in their mouth to tab keys on the keyboard to navigate a site. People who are deaf rely on close captions for videos. If we want to make our pages accessible for everybody we need to do a bit more than just adding alt text to our images.
A good starting point for learning more about web accessibility is the checklist for web content accessibility. It lists means of making websites more accessible by priority and each item has a link back to the W3C’s “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines” for quick reference.
There are many other helpful resources at our disposal. I had the pleasure to work with Svetlana Kouznetsova, who has many good tips on her website on how we can improve the accessibility of our webpages. She also runs a site that is dedicated exclusively to audio accessibility.
Clarissa Peterson wrote an article about the tools that HTML5 offers to make the web more accessible, touching on Semantic HTML and ARIA roles specifically. She also raises an important point: accessibility through good design. I find overly complex page layouts often difficult to navigate even without having to use assistive technology. Poor design can ruin good content. This is why it is important that not only web developers think more about accessibility, but editors and web designers, too. Another useful article to get started is Derek Featherstone’s Real World Accessibility in which he discusses what HTML5 offers (and what it doesn’t) to make pages more accessible.
With just a little more thought and effort we can make a big difference to people who can not experience the web the same way as most of us have taken it for granted. Instead of focusing on making every page element look exactly the same in each and every browser we should spend more time to make sure that it looks and sounds at least somewhat the same to all of our site visitors.