3.5: What’s the equivalent of a curb cut on a website?


David: So, Sandi, what’s the equivalent of a curb cut on a website?

Sandi: That’s a good question. So a curb cut, you know, in the physical world we see it as something that makes it easy for a person who uses a mobility device like a wheelchair to get up onto the sidewalk or up into a building. And it’s turned out to be useful for other people, you know, parents that are pushing a kid in a stroller or people with their grocery carts are pulling along. So, it’s that kind of curb cut concept was developed to make things easier for a particular user group, almost like human centered design, but it has actually become useful for a wide variety of people. 

So when it comes to a website, things like captions, captions on video are probably one of the easiest ones to imagine. So, captions on videos are designed to help people who are deaf or hard of hearing understand the content of the video because they can’t hear the words or the sounds. But they’ve become used, and I wouldn’t be surprised more often used, by people who aren’t deaf or hard of hearing, but are, you know commuting to work on the bus or the subway and they’re trying to watch a video and they don’t want to disturb the people around them? Or imagine you’re sitting in the living room with your partner, and do you want to watch a video and it’s different from what they’re doing and you don’t want to disturb them, so you use the captions. So, you can take advantage of something that was developed for people with a particular need and use it yourself. 

Responsive design is another thing, that is, it’s an accessibility requirement. Because it means that your content if somebody needs it in a bigger font, for example, the flow doesn’t get broken and they can still read and use your website. But responsive design also means that it works across all devices. So, if you’re building a website, you only need to build one version of it that morphs depending on how big or how small your browser is or your device is. So that, again, is something that was created or considered for accessibility first, but it’s actually made things a lot better for anybody that has a website. 

And accessible websites are also search engine friendly. And most business people that we speak with who want a website, one of the first things they ask for is to be number one on Google. And although that’s virtually impossible to guarantee, if you’re building an accessible website your chances of having better search engine rankings is vastly improved, because accessible websites are inherently search engine friendly. They’re also more likely to be faster loading, which is great for people who might be relying on low bandwidth: somebody in in a remote area that doesn’t have access to high speed internet. 

Having an accessible website usually means you’ve got a cleaner structure. There’s less overload and so things load more quickly, and alternative text on images, if they are in low bandwidth, but turn images off to save some bandwidth, they’re still going to be able to understand the content because you’ve put meaningful alternative text on your images. So, there’s all sorts of different things that are kind of like a digital curb cut on a website.

David: So, I understand then that a curb cut equivalent is an adaptation to a website to allow a specific need to access the component on the website. And I think it’s interesting to note that it’s estimated that 80% or more of our learning comes through the visual senses of our body, and I think a curb cut would be like audio or text.  

So, as you said, caption and caption is used in many many different situations, not just for deaf people. So, if you’re in a noisy environment, restaurant or factory, you would want to communicate through text.  

And the same with audio, I think it’s interesting that audio was created for people who are blind. So, you created a website and you have audio description and you have all text descriptions for images, but that has now expanded into commercialized audio books and what have you. So, I think it’s interesting to note that curb cuts are a very important concept.