Why Coding Bootcamps Should Include Digital Accessibility

November 1, 2022

Coding bootcamps are intensive training programs that teach job-ready skills for information technology (IT) fields. They’re offered by colleges, universities, and tech schools, and some private employers have established their own bootcamps to recruit (and develop) talent. 

Unlike traditional training courses, coding bootcamps are often short-term programs that focus on collaboration and immersion. Students practice their skills in real-world settings — which is why digital accessibility should be part of every program.

Every digital product needs to be accessible to reach a wide audience, but an estimated 96.8% of the internet’s top 1 million homepages have detectable accessibility errors. By introducing the concepts of accessibility as early as possible, educators can build an IT workforce that supports better experiences for users with disabilities. 

And practically, accessibility education has enormous benefits when included in basic IT curricula. Below, we’ll explore a few of those benefits.

Digital accessibility focuses on the experiences of real users

Getting new developers to actively consider usability isn’t always easy — but by breaking down usability into definable categories, instructors can help web developers build stronger professional skills.

The principles of accessibility provide a straightforward introduction to the concepts of usability. The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C’s) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), considered the international standards for digital accessibility, require web content to be:

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable 
  • Robust

Learn more about the four major categories of accessibility.

Those principles can be applied to all digital products, and they’re excellent tools for helping a new developer think about real-life users. Instead of asking, “how can I write code that solves a problem,” developers think more practically, asking questions like: 

  • Will this feature be perceivable for all users? 
  • Does the feature require an interaction that users can’t perform?
  • Will users understand how to operate the interface?
  • Will the feature work with current and future user agents?

When students think about how accessibility affects end users, they’re less likely to remediate issues through workarounds — they actively consider the experiences of real people rather than focusing on “completing the project.” 

That has benefits for employers: According to one study presented at the American Society of Engineering Management (PDF), fixing a usability issue after a product release can consume 100 times the development resources as compared to fixing the issue before the product release.

Related: Digital Accessibility Is an Investment, Not a Cost

Accessible digital products have cleaner code

Coding bootcamps teach a standardized approach to web development, which is essential for real-world problem solving. If a developer uses a quick fix or workaround to address a core issue with their code, they create future problems for other developers. 

Digital accessibility promotes cleaner code by focusing on the proper use of semantics. When web developers use semantic HTML to structure their content, their code is less likely to “break" or operate unpredictably when accessed with different user agents.

And since accessible websites prioritize semantic HTML and proper use of CSS, they often have faster load times. The content is organized in a predictable way, which reduces the time spent on product development.

Related: Plain Old Semantic HTML: A Perfect Basis for Accessibility

How can coding bootcamps integrate digital accessibility? 

Students should be encouraged to consider accessibility at every stage of development, so instructors should introduce WCAG as early as possible. That might mean discussing the four principles of accessibility early in the curriculum or encouraging students to create accessibility user personas when writing functional specifications.

Here are a few other ideas for building a coding bootcamp that advocates for accessibility:

  • Involve accessibility experts and people with disabilities. While instructors can introduce the basic concepts of accessible design, professional digital accessibility advocates can provide deeper insights.
  • Make sure students understand that accessibility isn’t optional. Laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require accessible websites, and web developers should understand how accessibility compliance might affect their employers.
  • Demonstrate how screen readers and other assistive technologies (AT) work on an accessible website.
  • Teach students about the limitations of automated accessibility testing and provide an overview of the importance of accessibility audits.

The Bureau of Internet Accessibility offers on-site training and self-paced training courses, which can provide web developers, bootcamp instructors, and technology leaders develop a sustainable approach to digital accessibility.

To learn more, send us a message to connect with a digital accessibility expert.

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