Adam Antoszek-Rallo RGD and Michael Young RGD share a list of accessibility resources.
1. Colour Contrast Analyzer (for Mac or Windows)
This tiny little desktop App allows you to eye-drop any colours on your screen and see their contrast ratio, as well as how that stacks up against WCAG guidelines. The great thing about this is that CCA can be used on *any* material on screen, making it an indispensable tool for non-web based accessibility design.
2. Wave Evaluation Tool (for Chrome)
There are many free websites (and tools) online with similar functionality, and multiple versions of the WAVE evaluation tools as well. Believe me when I say I have tested an exhaustive amount of them. This Chrome based plugin is the absolute best in class. I find this is the single most useful tool for testing web accessibility.
3. No Coffee (for Chrome)
No Coffee is an impaired vision simulator. It provides a simple means to simulate various vision difficulties, so we can get a better sense of how our designs might look to someone else’s eyes, and be able to make design adjustments accordingly.
4. WCAG Contrast Checker (for Firefox)
If you are testing for WCAG colour contrast compliance on a live website, I know of no better tool than this plugin. It is first and foremost very thorough, and it provides useful feedback with a minimum amount of false positives.
5. NVDA Screen Reader (for Windows)
The NVDA Screen Reader is completely free and is rapidly becoming the new standard for Windows. It is a must-have if you work with Windows, and along with Apple’s Voiceover, an essential piece of software to test your website on.
6. The Wayfinding Handbook: Information Design for Public Places by David Gibson
While this book is clearly an introduction to environmental graphic design, it covers a lot of the major principles of accessibility and usability that show up in other areas of communication design. This book covers planning, typography, iconography, colour contrast and other topics that are foundational for designing for accessibility.
7. Apple’s VoiceOver Tutorial
If you use a Mac or have access to one, I’d recommend trying out the screenreader. VoiceOver is Apple’s built-in screenreader for blind or low-vision users. It can be activated by visiting the accessibility section of System Preferences. Although screenreaders can be quite intimidating at first, Apple’s tutorial app is a simple way to become more comfortable with what screenreaders are and how they are used.
NVDA is a free option for Windows users and Chromevox is a cross-platform option for Google Chrome.
WebAIM is a outstanding resource for creating accessible websites and web content. While the official WCAG website is the authoritative source for the WCAG Priorities and Success Criteria, WebAIM makes the guidelines much simpler to understand, providing additional clarification and plain language examples. They also offer tools such as their colour-contrast checker and a website evaluation tool (also available as a Google Chrome browser extension.)
9. Watch a TV show or Movie using described video
This one isn’t so much a resource as an exercise in inclusivity. Most people are pretty familiar with closed-captioning, but described video is still foreign to most of us. Turning on described video (sometimes referred to as Audio Descriptions) can be an enlightening experience for designers, who tend to be visual thinkers. Closing your eyes and experiencing media this way also helps to develop skills in describing images and charts for accessible documents and websites.
10. Do Good Design: How Design Can Change Our World
David Berman’s book on ethics and the power of design is incredibly inspirational. David is an international speaker and expert on accessibility, so the book is peppered with examples of assistive technology and universal design, but the main theme of the text is our responsibility as designers to design a better future. It’s a compelling manifesto to set our sights high and design our projects and our careers in such a way that everyone benefits.
What other books would you consider essential reading? Email your suggestions to email@example.com to add to the list.
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