Why is Accessibility Important?
Almost 1 in 5 people in the US have a disability, and more than half of adults with a disability currently go online (Interactive Accessibility, 2012). Disabilities include little to no use of senses like seeing and hearing, and also difficulty with motor skills such as lifting and gripping. This means that some of your users won’t be able to see or hear what’s going on in a webpage, whilst others will have difficulty navigating it without some sort of assistance.
BUT, accessibility isn’t only about users with disabilities. To put things into perspective, all human beings have accessibility requirements. We are all limited by our bodies and our minds, and need human interfaces to interact with our computers. Even if you consider yourself to have no disabilities, there will be a point where text and images are too small or do not have enough colour contrast to allow them to be readable.
Feedback sounds and audio in video clips, are not only inaccessible to those who are deaf and hard of hearing, but also not heard by users with devices on silent or volume turned down.
Users can also become 'temporarily disabled' due to injury or medication that they are taking, which can hamper their ability to navigate the web. There are also situations where able people are restricted, such as mothers holding their newborns or carers who cannot afford to spend time and focus on complex interfaces.
The best thing about designing and developing with accessibility in mind is that you will be forced to create websites and apps that are easy to understand and use for everyone (including robots - more on that later).
Accessibility in Drupal 8
Drupal 8 has had significant effort put into creating it to ensure that the websites developed with it are universal and accessible. Many improvements to both default settings as well as tools for developers create a strong foundation to create websites for everyone.
WAI-ARIA attributes have been included to provide semantic meaning to elements where HTML5 does not suffice, allowing for screen readers to be able to distinguish and identify sections and components better.
Images uploaded by content editors, whether through image fields or WYSIWYG editors, require Alt tags by default, encourage developers to enforce accessible image content.
Drupal’s Form API sees improvement to radios and grouped checkboxes, which now use fieldsets to improve output from screen readers, as well as error messages which, through an optional, experimental core module, can be placed inline with fields.
Developers can also help screen readers and power users navigate by taking advantage of the new TabbingManager and declaring the logical order by which users should navigate through the page’s dynamic elements.
Drupal 8 strongly encourages the integration of libraries so that existing technologies can compliment each other and share their efforts in achieving an accessible world. Examples include Drupal’s replacement of it’s autocomplete functionality with that of jQuery UI, whilst also borrowing their modal dialogs for Views UI.
Other steps have also been taken towards framework unity, where Hidden / Invisible / On-focus declarations have now been standardized with HTML5 Boilerplate, and work well in Firefox as well as Safari on Macs, iPhones & iPads.