A Web for Everyone

A Web for Everyone


315 Pages


If you are in charge of the user experience, development, or strategy for a web site, A Web for Everyone will help you make your site accessible without sacrificing design or innovation. Rooted in universal design principles, this book provides solutions: practical advice and examples of how to create sites that everyone can use.



Published by
Published 15 January 2014
Reads 10
EAN13 9781457103087
Language English
Document size 12 MB

Legal information: rental price per page €. This information is given for information only in accordance with current legislation.

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Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbery


Rosenfeld Media
Brooklyn, New York

A Web for Everyone

Designing Accessible User Experiences

By Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbery

Rosenfeld Media, LLC

457 Third Street, #4R

Brooklyn, New York

11215 USA

On the Web: www.rosenfeldmedia.com

Please send errors to: errata@rosenfeldmedia.com

Publisher: Louis Rosenfeld

Managing Editor: Marta Justak

Interior Layout: Danielle Foster

Cover Design: The Heads of State

Cover Illustration: The Heads of State

Artwork for Personas: Tom Biby

Indexer: Sharon Shock

Proofreader: Sue Boshers

©2013 Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbery

All Rights Reserved

ISBN: 1-933820-97-7

ISBN-13: 978-1-933820-97-2

LCCN: 2013944511

Printed and bound in the United States of America

This book is dedicated to the many hardworking
and dedicated people for whom a web for everyone
is a professional goal, a personal mission,
and a daily endeavor


Who Should Read This Book?

You may be a web or user experience designer, thinking about what makes a product appealing to many people or how to meet the needs of a niche audience. You may be a programmer just handed a list of accessibility coding issues that need repair. You may be a team lead with a mandate from leadership to make accessibility a product differentiator. You might have learned that your organization is under scrutiny from disability rights organizations. You may be an advocate for people with disabilities, looking for ways to make a case for accessibility to a product design team.

No matter your title or skills, you are probably a member of a team that brings together many skills and roles to the task of building products. And you are thinking about accessibility. For accessibility thinking, you need to understand how your work fits with the work of others on your team, and how your decisions and actions affect millions of people around the world who use the web.

This book will help you get started with accessibility or provide a structure for your accessibility thinking. It offers a framework composed of accessible user experience principles and guidelines that will help you create websites and web applications that are accessible for everyone.

What’s in This Book?

Chapter 1, “A Web for Everyone,” lays out the accessibility equation and a framework of principles and guidelines for an accessible user experience. The framework is formed from three bodies of work: the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), the Principles of Universal Design, and the concepts behind Design Thinking.

Chapter 2, “People First,” introduces a group of personas—realistic but fictional characters that appear throughout the book to show how accessible design can have an impact on people’s lives.

Chapters 310 cover accessible user experience principles. We start each chapter with an example that demonstrates how the principle is enacted in the “real world” and why it is important for the web. Then we detail how to achieve the principle through supporting guidelines related to strategy, design, content, and coding. We include information about who is responsible and list the relevant WCAG 2.0 principles, guidelines, and success criteria. At the end of each chapter, we profile a leader in the area of accessible design.

The principles are:

•  Chapter 3, “Clear Purpose: Well-Defined Goals”

•  Chapter 4, “Solid Structure: Built to Standards”

•  Chapter 5, “Easy Interaction: Everything Works”

•  Chapter 6, “Helpful Wayfinding: Guides Users”

•  Chapter 7, “Clean Presentation: Supports Meaning”

•  Chapter 8, “Plain Language: Creates a Conversation”

•  Chapter 9, “Accessible Media: Supports All Senses”

•  Chapter 10, “Universal Usability: Creates Delight”

Chapter 11, “In Practice: An Integrated Process,” provides guidance for how to weave accessibility best practices into the fabric of your organization. A web for everyone will become a reality when accessibility is a core value and is considered just part of making things.

Chapter 12, “The Future: Design for All,” takes a look at what it might mean to have a web for everyone, before sending you off to your own journey into the future, to play your part.

There are three appendixes. The first is a list of the accessible user experience principles and guidelines in this book, as a handy reference. The second maps the WCAG 2.0 principles, guidelines, and success criteria to the Accessible UX principles and guidelines to help organizations aiming to meet the standard. Finally, there is a comprehensive reading list.

What Comes with This Book?

This book’s companion website (Imagerosenfeldmedia.com/books/a-web-for-everyone/) contains some templates, discussion, and additional content. The book’s diagrams and other illustrations are available under a Creative Commons license (when possible) for you to download and include in your own presentations. You can find these on Flickr at www.flickr.com/photos/rosenfeldmedia/sets/.


I’m not a designer (or I’m not a developer), so why should I read this book?

It’s difficult to imagine a context in which one person could take a product, from soup to nuts, and make it accessible. There are so many decisions to be made, and accessibility must be considered at every step along the way. A designer or developer can’t make accessibility happen alone.

If the decisions you make as part of your work impact someone’s experience of a digital product, you need to know how to make decisions that will not result in accessibility issues.

If you are leading an organization or a team, you may need to shake things up and change how you do business in order to achieve accessibility. You can’t just tack it on and hope it sticks. You need everyone to change their processes to make accessibility part of their practice. Chapter 11 looks at putting accessibility into practice.

This isn’t part of my job description, so whose job is it?

The simple answer is that we are all responsible for making our part of a project accessible. Rather than try to list all the different roles, titles, and skills, we identify three big groups:

Design: How will we create a great user experience for all?

Design includes all of the disciplines of UX and web design: information architecture, interaction design, information design, graphic design, and content strategy.

Content: What does the product say, and how does it say it?

Content includes the ongoing work to plan and produce text, images, audio, video—all the information in the site or app.

Development: How is the product built?

Development includes programming, coding, scripting, markup, as well as the templates and stylesheets that content authors use.

In Chapters 3 through 10, we identify both who has the primary responsibility for each aspect of accessibility and how all the other roles support it.

How big an issue is accessibility anyway?

The U.S. Census Bureau says that over 47 million Americans have a disability of some kind. The UN and the World Bank say this adds up to 650 million people worldwide. That’s around 10% of everyone in the world.

At some point in our lives, disability will affect most of us, no matter who we are, especially as we get older. By the time we retire, over 30% of us will have some disability, even if it is minor.

To put a face on these numbers, we’ve created a set of personas of web users. They don’t represent everyone, but they will introduce you to some of the ways people with disabilities use the web. You’ll meet them in Chapter 2.

I’m already doing responsive
design. Isn’t that enough?

Working to standards and responsive design are both important criteria for accessibility. One way to think about accessibility is that assistive technologies, such as screen readers and alternate keyboards, are just another kind of device. When a site is designed to be flexible, it works better on all devices. Chapter 4 covers how to support accessibility with a solid structure.

Accessible UX goes further, to be responsive to differences in people as well as devices. It’s about making sure that the ways users interact with your site or application (Chapter 5), navigate (Chapter 6), or read the screen (Chapter 7) allow for user preference.

Is content part of accessibility?

It sure is! There are many reasons why people have trouble reading: cognitive problems like aphasia or dyslexia, physical or vision disabilities, low literacy, or reading in a second language. But even skilled readers can have problems when they are rushed, tired, stressed, or reading on a small screen. Accessible content is written in plain language (Chapter 8) and presented clearly and flexibly (Chapter 7).

Should I follow Section 508 or WCAG?

WCAG 2.0, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, is a standard published by the W3C. That means it was created with input from people around the world and reflects the best international consensus. Section 508 is a national regulation in the United States. Other countries and the EU have their own laws and regulations.

If your product is covered by a specific regulation, of course you must meet its requirements. But if you are thinking about accessibility for other reasons, WCAG 2.0 is the place to start. It’s a robust standard that is flexible enough to apply in different contexts—websites, desktop apps, mobile apps, even web-enabled teakettles can be measured against the WCAG success criteria.

The good news is that most standards are very similar. The even better news is that the U.S. Access Board (the folks who manage Section 508) has proposed that the next version of Section 508 will use WCAG 2.0 Level AA as its requirements for web content. The EU is also working on new accessibility regulations, and we’ve been told that they, too, will be based on WCAG 2.0 Level AA. We have our fingers crossed, because in today’s global technology world, it would be great to have one standard for web accessibility. You’ll find a mapping of the accessible UX principles to WCAG 2.0 in Appendix B.