Accessibility considerations

The whole debacle around the increased inaccessibility of the new Ravelry site design has been a reminder to me to make sure my blog and patterns are as accessible as I can make them.

So here’s what I have been doing already and will be doing to make my work more accessible.

Blog:

Blog format:

I’ve switched to a wordpress.com theme that WordPress says conforms to accessibility standards. Here’s the wordpress.com list of accessible themes. (WordPress.org has its own set of accessible themes.)

I’ve used the WAVE Web Accessibility Checker on my blog since switching to this new theme, and the theme does still have a few problems. I can’t edit this theme myself to fix those things, but I think it’s still a big improvement over what I had. I hope to figure out something better in the long run.

I have also checked to make sure that every link in my new theme can be reached using keyboard navigation.

Images:

I’ve always used alt text for images, but I haven’t always described things in the most useful way. I have hundreds of images on the blog, and I can’t promise to go back and fix all of them. But I can read up on what I should be doing and make sure my alt text conforms to recommendations from now on. WebAIM has a useful article about alt text.

Blog posts:

Semantic structure:

Sometime in the last few years, I realized that I’d been choosing the header level in my blog posts based on appearance, instead of getting the numbers right. Basically, once you use a header that’s level 1 (the blog post title, in my case), the next smaller header should be a level 2, not a level 3. Screen readers function best if the headers are properly structured. Again, I’m not going back to fix old posts, but I am working on getting the structure right from now on. Headers act as an outline that can help people using screen readers navigate the page content.

  • Header 2
    • Header 3
    • Header 3
    • Header 3
  • Header 2
  • Header 2
    • Header 3

Stitch pattern post format:

I’ve almost always provided both written instructions and charts for my stitch patterns that are lace, cable, or texture patterns. There’ve been a few texture patterns that I couldn’t chart at all, and those only have written instructions.

In the last year, I’ve changed the formatting of my written instructions to make them easier to follow for people who use them.

My biggest lapse has been with my colorwork charts, both the generic needlework charts and the mosaic knitting charts. I’ve mostly not included written instructions for these.

I did realize that I could make written instructions for my mosaic knitting charts at the beginning of this year, and have started doing that consistently.

a simple black and white pattern displayed on a grid.

This leaves the needlework charts, which are basically an image of a pattern on a grid. The difficulty with providing written instructions is that I intend these charts to be used for any craft, and so I don’t want to limit the written instructions to just one craft.

I’ve been thinking about how to make that accessible to people who can’t use charts, and I think I have at least a stopgap solution: my chart software will automatically export instructions for doing knitted colorwork that look like this:

Round 1: work knit as follows; 1 B, 2 A, 1 B.

Round 2: work knit as follows; 1 A, 2 B, 1 A.

Round 3: work knit as follows; 1 A, 2 B, 1 A.

Round 4: work knit as follows; 1 B, 2 A, 1 B.

I think it wouldn’t be difficult to convert these to other styles of needlework. While B stands for Color B and A stands for Color A, there’s no reason those have to be worked as knitting.

They could be converted to other knitting stitches easily enough. For instance, find-and-replace could turn 2 B into p2 and 1 A into k1.

Finally, while I’m unfamiliar with the instructions for a lot of other crafts, I’d think it should be straightforward to convert to those, as well. For instance, filet crochet has open squares and filled squares (I’m sure there’s specific terminology for this that I don’t know) and A and B could be used to represent these.

For any of my needlework stitch patterns, I’d be happy to go back and add these written instructions if people want specific ones.

My patterns for finished objects:

Here, I know that I need to make a large print version for my patterns as an option, and I want to make sure they’re accessible to screen readers. I have to do the research about what I need to do about that. I already know where to look; I just need to do it. (There’s a community of crafters with vision problems who have assembled the recommendations. Ironically, I know where to look for the information on Ravelry: there’s a group called Accessible Patterns. I hope the information is available off-Ravelry as well, under the circumstances.)

I’m leaving my patterns on Ravelry for now. However, I’m also putting my patterns up a few at a time on Payhip. (Knitting-and.com has an article about maximising accessibility on Payhip, and I’ll be following those steps soon.)

Patreon:

I have no control over the formatting of Patreon, but I’m pleased to say that I recently saw an announcement on twitter that Patreon is working with the American Council of the Blind to improve matters.

I think that covers it. Please let me know if there’s something else I need to consider.

6 thoughts on “Accessibility considerations”

      1. I checked my website only I don’t have the mental energy for it properly today.

        I will be referring back to this post a lot. Thank you.

  1. Your post will be a help for me too. I am being tugged away as I type but will return. Thank you. I had used alt text in the past (probably not usefully, I will follow your link), and now there has been a change for how I add images. It needs further thought.

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