Accessibility means the freedom from barriers to media, e.g. the Internet. This means accessibility and usability for everyone, regardless of a possible disability.
Unfortunately, there is still a big difference between what is required in terms of accessibility in tenders in the IT environment and how it is then lived in everyday project work. There is often a lack of knowledge, but also of empathy on the part of the people involved, which means that accessibility is neglected during implementation.
In Austria, 18.4% of the population is affected by a permanent disability. Therefore, as an implementation partner in projects, it is our responsibility to ensure that everyone has sufficient access to websites, portals or apps. Therefore, in November 2022, the EBCONT UX / UI team focused on this with different measures.
Training for EBCONT UX/UI designers and developers
The first day of a two-day expert training course by myAbility, a social enterprise that is committed to an equal opportunity and barrier-free society, was about creating awareness for people with disabilities. A lot was also said about the right wording, which is an important part of treating each other with respect.
An open exchange with people with disabilities and a “Sensing Journey” helped the participants to gain an insight into their daily activities. An expert who was born with a cataract showed which tools she uses to consume analogue and digital content and which information helps her to find her way around. Another expert, who suffered from a mental illness during his student days, described very vividly the effects this has on his life and how the sensitive use of colors in user interfaces has a positive effect here as well.
The second day of the training focused on the design and development of low-barrier user interfaces. In the course of this, our EBCONT website was checked for accessibility with Braille displays and screen readers. Based on the valuable input obtained, various solution approaches were discussed in the team with myAbility.
As a further highlight, the EBCONT UX/UI team hosted a meetup on November 10th 2022 in the Millennium Tower on the subject of “Accessibility”. More than 60 guests accepted the invitation and thus made the event, which was designed as an eco-event, a complete success.
The kickoff was designed by Fredrik Fischer, DisAbility Consultant at myAbility, and introduced the topic to the viewers, who were there both on site and online. In summary it can be said: people do not have a disability, but are prevented from interacting with, for example, an interactive system. Once you have internalized this as a developer or designer, it quickly becomes clear that it is not the responsibility of the user to change anything. On the contrary, it is up to UX/UI designers and developers to design applications in such a way that nobody is prevented from using them.
What we can do better in the implementation
In further impulses, Roland Kalusa (UX/UI Designer) and Anne-Victoria Meyer (Frontend Developer) from EBCONT showed tips & tricks for the design and implementation of barrier-free apps and websites.
The first lecture dealt with the importance of accessibility in mobile use and how not only people with disabilities can benefit from it. Roland treated design criteria for perceptibility, usability and comprehensibility, tools and characteristics of the respective platforms were presented, as well as a short overview of the mobile WCAG criteria, standards and best practices. The new POST app served as an example, where our EBCONT design team had played a key role in its design.
Anne-Victoria again showed how developers can develop forms with low barriers, for example so that forms can be filled out with both the mouse and the keyboard. Or with which attributes in HTML changes such as error messages can be recorded by a screen reader. The UX/UI expert also strongly advocated using native HTML elements such as <select> instead of developing components for input fields yourself. The standard elements already provide many features out of the box and are also barrier-free.
All in all, exciting learning for the participants.
The fact that so many attended the event shows how important digital accessibility is. We at EBCONT hope that we have made a contribution to breaking down barriers in interactive systems in the future.
With new knowledge and more awareness of accessibility, it will be a top priority for us as the EBCONT team to ensure more inclusion in the upcoming projects.