Technology is a part of us, an extension of ourselves. It’s embedded into our daily routines, our lifestyles, and even our relationships. Given technology’s ubiquity, we should all have an equal opportunity to experience it.
The Form Challenge
A few weeks ago, I was challenged to build an HTML form page. The underlying goal was that it had to be universally accessible across the web. Sounds pretty cool, right? Feeling confident with my previous experience designing and developing forms, I expected it to be a straightforward task.
As I immersed myself in the accessibility field and the history of web forms, it dawned on me that we’ve been doing it wrong since the beginning. Heck, I’ve been doing it wrong since the first time I touched HTML. I won’t lie, that guilt covered me like a fog. As I found countless examples of “easy to fill out” and “beautiful, responsive” forms across the web, I realized that if I was visually-impaired and reliant on a screen reader like VoiceOver, I would only be able to fill out about 10% of most forms. Ten percent! That only covers my first name, last name, and if I’m lucky, email address.
Questions came rushing in. How could you call a broken form “easy to fill out?” Why have we not found solution(s) to this problem? Why has technology failed us?
Well, the hard truth is that the tools and building blocks are already there and available, but just not implemented in the web design process. We may debate the reasons why accessibility is often overlooked, but we can agree that disability hits home. Nearly 1 out of 5 people in the US have a disability. That is about ~57 million people who are possibly not given the equal opportunity to fill out a standard component of the web such as a form. Whether it’s a friend or family member, we’re all connected to someone with some form of a disability. For me, it’s my grandmother; she has glaucoma. Before I started researching accessibility, I knew that navigating the Web was a challenge for her, but I didn’t realize how difficult it could be. Without accessibility in mind from the start, I was making her experience even harder. I was feeding the problem rather than the solution. This challenge brought me back to the most important aspect of experience design: our beloved users.
Initially, I surmised that the goal of this challenge was to focus on my technical skills. However, it turned out to be an opportunity to understand the importance of creating an accessible experience, as well as to discover my own personal reasons for doing so. When we catch ourselves neglecting a fundamental component of the web—in this case, a form—we must ask, “What else have we missed?” It is a lot to take in given the Web’s immense scale, but it’s our moral duty as designers and developers to give everyone equal opportunity to experience the Web. Not to mention, it’s also good business sense to make your website more accessible. I’m sure you would not mind the increased traffic!
The web is made by the people for the people, and it should be accessible to all the people. As we still don’t have the silver bullet, we can aim to improve accessibility through a continuous path of learning and awareness. After all, you never know when it’ll hit home.
Here is a curated list of tremendous authors and resources that have educated me on my journey of making the web more accessible:
Also, be sure to check our blog posts on accessibility.