London Web Standards is an established and popular meetup for web professionals. The meetups cover a broad range of topics including design, development, UX and accessibility, and this month I had the opportunity to talk about SVG accessibility.
The talk looked at SVG past, present, and future, and explored the benefits and challenges it brings in terms of accessibility. Topics included the best way to maximise SVG accessibility, how to use ARIA to supplement the native accessibility of SVG, and how to use simple ARIA techniques to make complex data and animations more accessible to screen reader users.
Makayla Lewis created a beautiful sketch-note of my talk (thank you).
There were several good questions after the talk, but one in particular raised an interesting subject: Even when a chart has been made more accessible to screen reader users, is there a point at which the quantity of information becomes too much to process – and would a text description help?
The short answer is that a text description is a good thing to provide. It will help everyone understand the data in the chart more easily, but especially screen reader users who cannot see the chart itself. The longer answer is that there is definitely a point at which it becomes difficult (perhaps impossible) to process the available information. That point is different for each person of course. As someone who was once sighted, I understand what a bar chart, line graph, or venn diagram looks like, and so can use the available information to create a mental model of the data in my head. Someone who has never had any sight will process the data in a different way, and someone who remembers more about statistics than I do will probably be able to make more sense of the data than me!
If you’re interested in the practical work being done on SVG accessibility, there are several Github repositories to check out.