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Accessibility in development: a path to inclusive and sustainable progress

In a world of rapid technological progress and increasing digitalisation, innovations are becoming more and more important in everyday life. There are new technologies and advanced online communication platforms - even the fridge is getting smarter. The key question, however, is whether everyone can benefit from digitalisation? While the networking of digital achievements is increasing exponentially, there is a risk that people with different abilities and needs will be excluded from this progress. This is where accessibility comes into play in the early processes of UI and UX design.

Perceptibility, usability, robustness and comprehensibility should actually be the standard for every web development. They are the four pillars of usability and provide an optimal orientation for the implementation of accessibility. However, according to a report on web accessibility by the accessiBe initiative in 2020, only around 2% of US websites fulfil these requirements. Developers are not acting intentionally, but are unconsciously disregarding accessibility. This is where automated tools should help with the implementation of accessibility.

There are various ways to integrate accessibility into your projects. A good and efficient method is the use of automated tests and AI-supported tools. Everything from integrated plugins to web extensions is available. They help to use compliant programming language and utilise Aria attributes so that assistive technologies can access the content of the web application. Of course, they also cover other areas so that most people with motor, visual and auditory impairments can access the content. These tools not only ensure access for people with disabilities, but also improve the usability of the interface for all users. It should always be borne in mind that such tools only test the user interface of a project and that the user experience should be tested manually by an employee. Accordingly, further tests should be integrated into the evaluation process so that accessibility can be implemented efficiently.

Agile DevOps teams emphasise the importance of detecting errors early in the software lifecycle to ensure high-quality rollouts. However, accessibility testing is often neglected or only carried out at the very end of development, which can lead to a higher than expected likelihood of bugs or unknown malfunctions. Bugs that are deeply embedded in the software can cause high costs in the final phase of process development. Continuous measurements are key to understanding whether the transformation to accessibility is working.  These measurements improve quality while maintaining process speed and preventing potential errors that cannot be reversed later.

 

Although manual testing cannot be completely avoided, automated integration tests support developers during coding by improving accessibility and promoting the accessibility learning process. Many of these tests are open-source programmes such as Pa11y, WAVE or Google Lighthouse, which offer a clear set of features. Some tools can be extended through subscriptions and offer many additional features that continuously improve accessibility in projects.

In summary, companies that focus on accessibility and are committed to inclusion create a competitive advantage in the market environment and enable users to access and participate in digitalisation. However, integrating automated testing into an existing product development cycle takes time. As a company, you should focus on continuously improving accessibility - for the customer and to motivate developers.

About the author

 

Adrian Weber is currently an intern in the field of UI and UX design. As part of his "Online Media" degree programme at Furtwangen University, he is working on accessibility in development processes and the usability of software interfaces. 

 

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