Web Accessibility Affects Surfers

If you are like me, you dream of spending all your spare time at the beach surfing the waves until the sun goes down. Is surfing not your “thing?” Maybe watching the surfers carve a wave is more your style. If you prefer the mountains, maybe after a hard day’s work, you prefer to channel-surf to clear your mind instead. Regardless of where we choose to surf, we all do some type of surfing, and there is a good chance we occupy more of our time surfing the web than we do surfing anything else. Did you know web accessibility affects surfers? Crazy thought, right? Let’s talk about how it actually affects surfers, web surfers that is (aka everyone).

We are told time and again that our websites and documents must be accessible. We know users with disabilities will benefit from an accessible website. Aside from the obvious benefits of an accessible website, it’s also a violation of civil rights laws to deny equal access by not providing accessible content. So how does an inaccessible document or website actually affect disabled users? 

Recently, while visiting our friends at the Southern Association for the Visually Impaired (SAAVI), we talked about some of the ways blind users are affected by website accessibility. In the video below, SAAVI staff members Jeremy and Shannon share some insight on how many are affected by website accessibility. 

Of course, the examples SAAVI provides are just a few of the ways users are affecting by the accessibility of a website. To see someone actually be affected by web accessibility, check out the video below. The University of California, San Francisco shared an example of a blind user’s ability to surf the web. You will see how adding elements to a web page will either completely confuse someone such as a blind user or if added accessibly, will give them the same experience as a sighted user. 

Keyboard Accessibility

Although blind users may be the most common disabled user referred to when talking about website accessibility, there are many other types of disabilities affected by website accessibility. For example, someone with multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease may have limited or no ability to use a mouse. If your website, including your linked documents, are not keyboard accessible, finding what they need will be difficult if not impossible. However, accessibility features such as keyboard navigation affect more than just disabled users.

Have you ever tried to view a website or a PDF document on your mobile device but were not able to tap the submit button to submit a form you were attempting to complete? You may have tried to zoom in on the button, but found that the document would not zoom in enough for you to click the link. This would be a total wipe out. Zooming in to make the button accessible is actually an accessibility requirement. Not only are the website and document inaccessible to many disabled people but they are to a wide variety of other users as well.

Color Contrast

Color is another feature of accessibility that affects many users. I have a cousin who, because of his red hair, goes by the name “Red.” Ironically, Red is color blind and doesn’t see the color red. While talking about this disability with Red one day, he mentioned how confusing horizontal traffic lights are for him.

Normally, Red would know to stop at a stop light when the top light is lit. Since he can’t distinguish the color of the light, he has learned to compensate, using the location of the light. Can you imagine the anxiety someone like this must have while driving? And the occasional horizontal light just adds to an already unsettling experience.

Now let’s imagine Red is trying to win an all-expense paid trip to the beautiful island of Maui where he looks forward to avoiding traffic lights and spending his time surfing waves instead. In order to win this trip, all he has to do is complete a simple form and hit the submit button. He’s delighted to see the document allows him to fill it out online instead of having to purchase more ink for his printer that always seems to run out just when he needs it most just so he can complete the form. He completes the form with ease. The final step is to select the red button. Here are the buttons Red sees to choose from:

two gold buttons

Did you find the red button? If you are color blind like Red, you obviously did not. If you are not color blind, the buttons would appear like these:

one red button, one green button

How unfortunate it is for Red when he selects the button on the right! This may be an extreme example; however, the same concept applies when we use color in our documents and on our websites. Can all of your users access all of your content? Or are your colors hindering their ability to navigate and complete tasks effectively?

Be sure your documents are like a party wave that allows all users an opportunity to hang ten.