Book dump: A web for everyone

As a way to document some cool things I’ve been reading on the latests books that caught my attention, I’ll start writing here some of the highlights I did on the books and maybe some afterthought on those as well. Today, we talk about accessibility (a11y).

A web for everyone is a book by Sarah Horton & Whitney Quesenbery which is aimed for anyone who works with the web in general and would like to really make it work for everyone, as intended from the very beginning.

It’s an amazing book for anyone wanting to get introduced to the a11y world but also improve any previously acquired expertise. As a11y relies strongly on one’s empathy, this book does an amazing job on presenting well described personas with different kinds of disabilities and the consequences of that when using web related services. It’s an amazing exercise of empathy. Really touching.

Although I would love to see some tech implementation examples, I think it was not the real focus of the book, but it comes with a lot of references to initiatives and guidelines on improving the web for everyone, so that not only you can cause a positive impact on the web, but also learn how to kickstart something at your workplace and get more people to have an inclusive mindset.

I totally recommend the read. Do yourself (and many others) a favour and read it.


… But on the web, every decision I make can have profound effect on hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people’s lives. I can make checking into a flight a breeze, or I can make it a living hell.

That’s a lot of power. And to quote Stan Lee: “With great power comes great responsibility” – Aaron Gustafson

Design has the capacity to improve lives. When we wield such a powerful tool, we need to appreciate its power so we are able to use it for good.

In other words, disability is a conflict between someone’s functional capability and the world we have constructed.

The power of the web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.

– Tim Beners-Lee

Find people who are fairly experienced using products like yours. If people use assistive technologies with your product, you probably want people who are skilled with their assistive technology. Later in testing, you might want to include some novices, but early on you want people who can teach you well.

– Shawn Henry, on testing

As far as Jacob is concerned, it’s the technology that’s handicapped, not him. When everything is in place, he can work just as fast and just as effectively as anyone in his office.

– on Jacob, one of the presented personas

Best of all, I’m no different from anyone else - and I’m faster than some of my co-workers, if you want to know the truth.

– Jacob, one of the presented personas

Choose an accessibility strategy:

  • Universal (or inclusive design) - one site
  • Equivalent use - includes alternatives
  • Accommodation - a separate “accessible” version

In the 2012 WebAIM survey of people who used screen reader reported that the first thing they did on a page was to scan the heading using the navigation tools.

Apple’s leadership in accessibility is partly the result of the California state university system refusing to buy their products until everyone could use them.

The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed.

– William Gibson

Other books on the subject

I really liked Apps For All: Coding Accessible Web Applications. It’s a short and inexpensive book with tons of great information, written by Heydon Pickering. Has great balance between a11y theory and practical code examples. A really good entry point that will allow you to think better a11y-wise but also implement everything so that all users have the best UX possible.

Talk back!

Did the highlights make you thing using a different perspective? Are you already making a web for everyone?

How do you keep track of interesting books you read?