Monday Merchant Meetups - Website Accessibility

When I started my Shopify journey, I wished there was a regular meetup where no one was trying to sell me a solution. But a place that offered a sounding board for my roadblocks where I could meet people like me who could help. This is why I started Monday Merchant Meetups. Each week like-minded Shopify merchants meet up and help each other out. Usually the discussion is guided by a topic of the week. 

This week's topic is focused on Website accessibility and we had Chandra Harrison from access advisors as our special guest. Below are the notes that were taken from the meetup. 

A massive thank you for Chandra taking the time out of her day to spend time with us at our meetup! This was such a valuable 90 mins! 

Date: 7 - 09 - 20

Host: Julian from Shopify

Special Guest: Chandra Harrison from Access Advisors

Dr Chandra Harrison rom Access Advisors

Doctor Chandra Harrison from Access advisors spoke on the 'Impact of Poor Design' in terms of accessibility. She talked about the potential of lost revenue and even more importantly the human impact. We then asked a bunch of questions. Here are my notes from the meeting. 

**Before you read on** Try navigating your website with just the tab and return keys. What did you discover? 


Main Takeaways:

Accessibility is: 

  • Making products and services available to everyone
  • Ensuring that websites, apps, software, and products can be used
  • Its removing friction from the interface design
  • Not just about people with disabilities. The elderly, technophobes, people with cognitive impairments all have accessibility issues at some time. 

Over a quarter of New Zealands population have some form of disability. If your website is designed with accessibility in mind, then your brand has a better advantage over your competitors, as it will be a positive buying experience. Someone with accessibility issues is more likely to positively review your store and share that experience with Family and friends. 

Having an accessible website is about removing as much friction as possible, which is essentially the same as optimising your website. 

There is assistive technology that is specialised and helps work around accessibility. It is still challenging to use and can take quite a lot longer to use than a keyboard and mouse. 

Having a scarcity timer on your product page or checkout can place a bunch of stress on someone using this tech.  

Alternative text - top tips: 

  • Ensure that all informative non-text content has alternative text 
    • This includes images, photos, logos, and graphs. 
  • Use <alt=””> (also called null text) if the image is purely decorative 
    • This tells the screen reader to ignore this image. 
  • Consider your audience and the specific message you want to convey by using this particular image in this particular situation 
    • The same image might be described differently in different contexts 
  • Describe the image, and be specific about both the subject and the context 
    • Use text to tell the story the image is telling visually 
  • Front-load your alt text by putting the most relevant words at the start 
    • Consider what is the most important part of the image 
  • Keep alt text concise 
    • Screen readers typically stop reading after 125 characters 
  • Never start alt text with "photo of…," "picture of..." or "image of..." 
    • Screen readers automatically announce that it is an image 
  • Alt text should not be redundant 
    • E.g. If an image already has a descriptive caption consider whether alt text is needed 
  • Tell visitors where linked images go 
    • E.g. alt= "Blind Foundation logo – website home" 
  • Include alt text for images in Word, Excel, PowerPoint documents  
    • a. Useful help information is available from Microsoft Support 
  • Always check automated alt text from auto text generators 
    • They are still a little limited 
  • Create good business processes for naming all images 
    • E.g. the owner of each image should create names as they add them to your database 
  • Explore using the longdesc="" tag for more complex images that require a longer description. 

Closed captioning:

If you use video on your website and your social media marketing, please use closed captioning. 

Check your colour contrast:

Ensure your website has a contrast high enough for people whose vision is impaired.   

Left aligned, sans serif, sentence case:

Avoid aligning text in the centre as it is hard to read, especially for people with cognitive disabilities. Try not to use all CAPS and use all sans serif fonts as they are the easiest to read. 

What are the first three things I should do as a small business owner to make my business more accessible online?

  1. Understand that there is a real need. 
  2. Understand that there is a real benefit. 
  3. Realise that it's not a quick fix.
    1. Ensure that you have alt text for all images.
    2. Ensure that your text and backgrounds have sufficient colour contrast.
    3. Make sure that all your links and headings are meaningful.

    Will making my business accessible be expensive? 

    The majority of issues are easy/cheap to fix; some are a bit harder (80/20). But if you think about accessibility at the beginning, it won't be much more expensive than normal development 

    Resources and Links

    The modelling agency for people with disabilities is Grace Stratton

    The Ministry of Social Development has some great resources for checking accessibility.
    9 Tools for website accessibility testing
    Accessibility for themes help doc

    Chandra Harrison from Access Advisors


    Accessibility test

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