Digital Inclusion

2013 is the year of digital inclusion. Your content needs to be universally accessible, on any device, by all viewers, regardless of their ability.

If you design and code only for specific audience, think again. Watch what is happening to Apple – it would like to dominate largest Asian market, but shoppers, and governments, do not like to be limited to operability only within one suite. Sales are not as robust as predicted. Android, which implemented wide accessibility and operability of their devices with other platforms, is gaining applaud of the consumers in sales’ visible terms.
Content is, and will be experiencing in the near future the same laws of accessibility. Owners of every screen size and device type, as well as people of all ages and abilities, want to access content they like, need, and are interested in, transparently to the operating systems, platforms, brands and any other technology channels, despite of any physical limitations they might have temporarily or permanently.

What does this mean for the designers, programmers, content curators and creators, as well as the business owners?

You have to plan your projects with future compatibility in mind. Comply with forward standards, expand your horizons, separate content from style, concentrate on human factor, learn about needs and abilities of various people, depending on their age, health, cognitive and motor abilities. Make everyone included.

Practical tips?

Here are some do‘s for programmers and coders:

1. Use semantic markup
2. Incorporate ARIA principles and other enhancements for screen readers and machine-accessible content, like for instance micro-formats, and content roles
2. Separate content and style
3. Make content portable (for easy syndication)
4. Use progressive enhancement, not graceful degradation
5. Make your design readable on any screen size, whether you choose adaptive, mobile or responsive design

Practical tips for designers:

1. Web is not static – move from designing static mockups to style guides, style tiles, designing with code, in-browser – choices are growing by day.
2. Accessible sites do not have to be boring or basic at all
3. Usability is as important as user experience
4. Keep in mind visual clarity and contrast, logical flow of content, emphasis on what’s important and simplicity of selections.

Practical tips for content creators/editors:

1. Use alt tags for any images, strive for video transcripts, come up with meaningful anchor texts and descriptive links title tags, and in general think of your content accessibility by both people with disabilities, as well as search engines bots and other intelligent machines – it’s just good for business!
2. Use image sizes and resolutions that are appropriate and scalable for online viewing – be bandwidth wise.
3. Use absolute urls for links (when your content is syndicated through automated processing, you may lose these links if otherwise.)
4. Use meaningful names for images – “untitled-1.jpg” doesn’t count.
5. Use standard open formats for attachments (including images). Png image format is not universally acceptable, and not everyone owns Microsoft or Mac wordprocessing suites. Do not assume that all PDF attachments are equally accessible.

Digital inclusion is important – for people around us, for business, and selfishly good – for ourselves, as it allows humans and machines to work independently, freeing everyone to do what they like.

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
–Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

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