Design Patterns and Best Practices for accessibility

People who start with web accessibility are confronted with a huge amount of documents to read and to understand. There are a lot of special terms and abbreviations, which have to be learned. In fact, web accessibility is not accessible; also the WAI had done a lot of work to make it easier for developers and designers.

Also if you have some knowledge on accessibility people in many cases have not the time or enough knowledge to find a solution or study the Guidelines. For example if you want to create an accessible web form, you have to study many WCAG guidelines and to understand how they influence each other. You have to have a basic understanding of the working of Screenreaders and magnifiers and the surf behaviour of people with disabilities and so on.

In reality, developers have a concrete problem which they have to solve in short time. They have not enough time to study all necessary docs and even if they have, they won’t, because there are better or at least funnier things to spend your time with.

An alternative approach to guidelines and tutorials are best practices and design patterns.

Design Patterns and Best Practices

Design Patterns are patterns to solve problems on a special way. Patterns describe a solution without going to deep in detail.

Best Practices are examples for a solution. They were developed by accessibility experts and showed in practice that they work well.

A best practice has the advantage that it already works in practice. Almost every problem was already solved in a good way and it would be stupid to spend a lot of time to develop a new solution, if it is not better than the older one. The best practice can be adjusted to the demands of the other platform.

There are disadvantages of course, too. The code of HTML and JavaScript can be copied quickly without credits to the original developer, but this is the price of an open web. More important is, that a newbie cannot assess, how good a solution is. It can happen that he does not take the best solution, but the first one he finds. Last not least a best practice doesn’t bring a lot of learning for the developer.

The solution is design patterns. They describe the requirements and the way to a solution without restricting the developer. The developer has to find a solution on his own, but he can evaluate if he has fulfilled all requirements. Because he has to spend more time with the design pattern, the learning is in this case higher. This process of cause takes more time, but I think, this is the better way.

On the search of solutions

As already mentioned the main problems lies in the finding of the right or best solution. We need a central platform which collects the best solutions. One problem may be that most texts of the WAI only exist in complex ugly English. A search engine is a quick but quite bad way because developers can not know how good the solutions are, search engines can now and probably never will estimate, how good a solution is.

I would prefer a central database in which all solutions are collected. It would be nice to offer interaction like value the solutions and to criticize them if they are not practical or bad described. Accessibility experts, people with disabilities and newbie’s should get the possibility to discuss the solutions and improve them over time.

Further reading