Building an Internet that Includes Everyone: Accessibility Camp Toronto

A projector shows the text of a presentation at Accessibility Camp Toronto for the hard of hearing. Text reads: "Next week it could be different. It's working. All of the browsers are working...[on becoming accessible]."The basic goal of accessible web design is to create online content that’s more usable to those with disabilities. But one of the great side effects is that it can also improve the overall usability of a website for all users. Accessibility practices range from general design best practices like structuring information logically to writing code to communicate with specific technologies like screen readers.

Why is accessible web design Important?

Websites that are inaccessible under-serve an enormous number of people. There are more than a billion people around the world who live with some kind of disability, according to figures from the World Health Organization (WHO). Among them, 285 million have visual impairments: 39 million who are blind and 246 with low vision. Other issues also affect an individual’s online experience such as deafness and hearing loss, cognitive limitations, limited movement, color blindness and combinations of these.

Another reason accessible web development seems to be on everyone’s minds in our city is that new public websites and web content from public sector organizations and large organizations in Ontario must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level A accessibility standard starting in 2014.

Accessibility is more than a standard; accessibility camp is more than a conference

The intention behind accessibility is more than just complying with a standard – it’s about making better online experiences. When we approach design and development, we try to think about the end user first, and development second. And this idea of putting a person or an organization’s needs first, then figuring out the technology that will make this possible is something we heard time and again in the conversations we had and in the sessions we attended.

We also found that attendees were concerned not only about the present, but also about the future of accessibility. Some very prescient topics covered at Accessibility Camp included accessibility in HTML 5, implementing accessibility in large organizations, and responsive design and accessibility.

These topics are very much driven by user needs and emerging technologies, making the topic of the accessible development a constantly evolving field that requires constant learning. If you’re interested in learning more and staying up to date, we encourage you to join Toronto’s A11y Meetup Group or attend next year’s Accessibility Camp.

Why do attendees think Accessibility Camp’s so important? CNIB‘s Debbie Gillespie put it well in a recent Tweet: “Accessibility camps are not about preaching to the converted. They are about imparting knowledge and exchanging ideas.”

What does accessibility mean to you? Please let us know in the comments!