Accessibility in Tech: A Conversation with UpCity’s Agnes Godziszewski
Our Senior Digital Designer explains the wealth of benefits that come from practicing inclusive design.
One of the most important activities you can do to boost your B2B company’s online visibility and credibility is to practice inclusive design in the development and maintenance of your website. In fact, Adobe makes the case that while inclusive design practices are important for myriad reasons, the most important one is that it enhances the user experience for a more diverse audience.
According to The World Bank, approximately one billion people—or 15% of the world’s population—experience some form of disability. Empathy for a diverse audience is not only the morally sound way to go, but inclusive UX design also can improve your SEO and organic traffic numbers. Search engines are paying attention and rewarding websites that include alt text for images, closed captions in videos, descriptive link text, and other accessibility-related aspects.
If you’re not sure whether your website follows American Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines, there are simple steps and relatively minor changes you can make throughout that can have a huge impact on a visitor with a disability.
We spoke with our Senior Digital Designer, Agnes Godziszewski, to learn more about the topics of accessibility and inclusive design, as well as what we can all do to serve a wider audience and uphold the true meaning of accessibility—a user’s ability to interact and use a product or service.
How did you get started with accessibility?
Agnes Godziszewski: I learned some of the basics of accessibility back in college, things like contrast and legibility. I started getting more exposure to inclusive and accessible design as an instructor. I taught a UX/UI boot camp where the foundation of the course was based on a human-centered methodology. I spent a lot of time familiarizing myself with accessibility standards and tools that help you measure how well you are meeting those standards.
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What are some things you do at UpCity to help keep our website accessible?
AG: At UpCity, we strive to meet the AA level of conformance. In the recent marketplace redesign, we spent a significant amount of time thinking about the overall information hierarchy, modern design patterns, and tactile feedback. How can we make the information on the page easier to digest and interact with so that our product is accessible to everyone regardless of disabilities or impairments?
From a visual and legibility standpoint, we ensure that all of our brand colors and color combinations are thoroughly vetted through contrast checker tools, and that our buttons meet a minimum target size area requirements. We also pay close attention to element tagging within the HTML markup such as appropriate alt, title, and aria tags, all of these efforts allow screen readers to effectively parse through our pages.
Can you talk more about how UpCity’s brand guidelines keep accessibility in mind?
AG: The UpCity Brand Guide, created by our VP of Product & Creative, Jen Gadus, contains a detailed section dedicated to accessibility. This section outlines key high-level WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) standards that we at UpCity need to conform to. Some of these include:
- Avoiding automatic content such as pop-ups
- Limiting animation
- Maintaining the correct HTML markup
- Providing alternative ways of digesting content and navigating through our product
- Ensuring proper contrast ratios and element sizing requirements are met
What resources do you recommend for those trying to learn more about website accessibility?
AG: One of the greatest and most detailed resources I refer to is the WCAG website. You can find all of the web accessibility standards information as well as how they align with each level of conformance. In addition to this, WebAIM, WebFundamentals, and The A11Y Project are all great resources that provide essential info on accessibility and inclusive design, plus they include handy checklists to follow when creating digital products.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
AG: While accessibility has been increasing its presence in the design field, there are still many companies that don’t follow best practices or don’t want to invest time and money into making digital products/websites accessible. Sometimes this happens because the company and individuals are not aware of what accessibility and inclusive design are.
Our role as designers and contributors is to advocate for accessible design. This can be as simple as starting a conversation with your team and sharing the importance and the value inclusive design can bring to the company.