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Accessibility and responsive design

2 minutes read

I remember back in the day when responsive design was a fairly new concept. We had similar debates and arguments against how useful it is.

  • We don't have customers using small screen devices
  • They can adapt and scroll sideways to see all the content
  • We can offer a mobile-only version of our website

It was as if the average customer was using a 14-inch screen with a resolution of 1024x768. So every website started its life in that format.

That whole debate is now moot. There's no more average resolution and I rarely see a website that isn't responsive out of the box. I haven't seen a "mobile." website either. So we've learned that lesson. People will use a diverse set of devices with various screen sizes, so much so that we cannot plan on an average, normal, regular or most used screen size.

Accessibility and responsive web design are two sides of the same coin. They're both about adapting experiences to match the needs and preferences of the user. Responsive design tailors how a website displays across different devices and screen sizes. Accessibility is all about being responsive to the diverse range of abilities that people have.

It's too bad we have the same arguments as we did with responsive design.

  • We don't have customers with disabilities
  • They have to adapt to use our website
  • We can offer an accessible version of our website

It's like we haven't really learned the lesson. Making digital products and services accessible from the ground up is really just another form of responsive design. It's about making sure your website can accommodate how different users prefer to navigate and consume your content.

For someone with a visual impairment, that might mean ensuring proper heading structuring, alt text for images and keyboard navigation. For those with motor disabilities, it involves creating adequate target sizing for tap areas and avoiding interactions that require a high degree of precision.

The needs diverge based on abilities, but the principle is the same. We need to respond to how a person actually experiences our product.

Accessibility is just another crucial dimension of responsive web design when we take into account the diverse devices and abilities.

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