The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect. - Tim Berners Lee, Inventor of World Wide Web.
The internet as we know it today is 10680 days old! Originally conceived to meet the demand for automatic information sharing between scientists in universities and institutes around the world, the internet today is an integral part of more than 3 Billion people in the world. For various reasons ranging from social networking to collecting information for projects, internet today is arguably the most powerful resource known to mankind.
Over the years, the boom in chatbot and machine learning applications has led to businesses crafting their online presence in the form of websites and using artificial intelligence for a better customer experience. This is not surprising, given the fact that in recent years, chat or messaging has taken over social media to be the "go-to" option for users who want to contact a business.
But have you ever stopped to think, can everyone access the web?
It is 2018 and I wonder, why is web accessibility still less, well, accessible?? As a business, the competitive market pushes you to reach as many people as you can to promote your brand. More the barriers, lower the chances of reaching potential customers. This basically is the concept behind web accessibility: to eliminate the barriers that the audience face!
What is Web Accessibility?
Generally, people refer web accessibility with screen readers or visual disabilities. However, the range of topics that it covers is vast and includes more than just the disabilities. For example, having an appropriate screen contrast for a person to see the screen on a sunny day is a use case for someone with a normal vision rather than for someone with a disability.
The World Wide Web Consortium has introduced some guidelines to achieve certain levels of accessibility to ensure that a website is as useful as possible. Published in 1999 as version 1.0 and later in 2008 as version 2.0, the WCAG 2.0 is generally accepted as the standard to measure when talking about web accessibility and the information you present to a user.
How is Web Accessibility Important??
With the internet's growing importance in people's life, if what you want to convey (your content basically) is not easily accessible to everyone, you’re turning away your audience before they ever get to the door. For example, something as simple as a broken hand or a temporary blindness can make it difficult to navigate the web.
While the fact that web accessibility is not only for those with disabilities is quite resonant, businesses need to know that the flexible and responsive design of a fully accessible website is a benefit to everyone.
What does Drupal do?
Drupal CMS, a web based SaaS provides the ability to organize a manage an organization's web content in a systematic manner. The guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium is divided into two - ATAG 2.0 that addresses the authoring tools and the WCAG 2.0 which addresses the web content and is widely used by developers and accessibility evaluation tools. Drupal CMS, as a platform, has been built to adhere to both the guidelines. While the accessibility initiative started with Drupal 7, the content management system's latest version addresses some of the best accessibility features.
Drupal 8 Accessibility Features?
The most advanced version of Drupal CMS allows your website to be far more likely to be accessible, to assistive technologies and the users who depend on them, than ever before.
Poor contrast level is often cited as the most commonly overlooked feature by the developers. However, in Drupal 8, the core themes have higher contrasts, thanks to the Drupal's accessibility maintainers. With improved contrasts, users suffering from colour-blindness can easily websites. Also, this feature is an added advantage when visiting a website under bright sunlight in a portable device like a mobile phone or a tab.
Errors while filling forms is one of the most common factors that affect the user interface. With the new standards, identifying these errors becomes much easier. By using a better form validation error verbiage, Drupal 8 provides an option to turn on this feature that improves accessibility related to the display of form errors. For example, a visually impaired person can now easily identify what errors he might have made when filling in a web form.
Alt text usuallt refers to the words that are used to describe a particular image. Though not visible or rendered on the page, these alt texts are used by tools like screen readers and is a great asset to web accessibility. This feature which is set to required by default in Drupal 8 helps visually impaired audience to know what the image is all about with the help of the text.
Buttons instead of links
A common practice among many website owners is to use anchor texts as "call to action" instead of buttons. From a semantic standpoint, it is more logical to use a button rather than anchor texts as these user interface elements are action oriented. Thus, Drupal 8 has called for this measure to use buttons rather than links. This new standard set by Drupal 8 can be handled without becoming heavily dependent on WAI-ARIA that can be useful in identifying the purpose of some elements.
The Future of Web Accessibility in Drupal
Over the years, Drupal has taken some great steps forward to achieve web accessibility through several of its major releases and is one of the leading implementations of the web accessibility standards. With web accessibility being one of the major factors contributing to the user interface and the ability of a business to reach the maximum audience, several strategic initiatives for Drupal core is sure to shape the future of how people interact with a website. Some of the noteworthy ones include:
- Application-like interfaces and various UI interactions that are presented without full-page refreshes: sliding panels, autofocus, live result filters, drag-and-drop, pop-up success messages, live previews,wizard-like progress steps, and role impersonation.
- Automated accessibility testing using headless browser drivers.
- Supporting more interaction modes, such as MS Windows' high-contrast mode, and speech-driven control.
- End-user testing for accessibility
- The theme component library initiative which involves much refactoring of how Drupal produces output.