Digital Accessibility with Sustainability

Marcelo Goberto Azevedo
3 min readApr 4, 2023
Solar panel connects to computer application

Accessibility in technology is an important issue, as technology plays a fundamental role in many areas of daily life, such as communication, education, employment, and leisure. Digital accessibility is essential to ensuring equal opportunities and social inclusion of all individuals in the digital world, regardless of their abilities and limitations. Within this context of digital accessibility are included software, mobile apps, hardware, assistive devices, and communication technologies.

The sustainability theme is gaining more and more prominence within organizations through the ESG agenda, especially in organizations that intend to lead the market and, in the long run, survive market change demands. Sustainability in source codes is related to the environmental component of the ESG agenda, as it seeks to reduce the environmental impact of the application through optimization of resource and energy consumption, and reduction of electronic waste generation.

Thus, we can say that there is a correlation between digital accessibility and sustainability in the source codes of applications, as both concepts are related to creating products and services that are accessible and viable in the long term.

With a focus on digital accessibility, it is essential to ensure that the application is developed in a way that can be used by all people, regardless of their abilities and limitations. This means that the application’s source codes must be designed to allow assistive technologies, such as screen readers and other technologies, to be used by users. Additionally, it is essential that the application’s source codes follow accessibility guidelines, such as those defined by WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), to ensure that the application can be used effectively and independently by people with disabilities.

On the other hand, sustainability in the source codes of the application is related to creating products and services that are viable in the long term. This means that the application’s source codes must be designed to minimize resource and energy consumption and avoid unnecessary electronic waste generation. Additionally, it is important to ensure that the application’s source codes are kept up-to-date and optimized to ensure their efficiency and security over time.

We can list some ways of sustainability in source codes that will increase efficiency from the accessibility point of view, obviously, the adoption of accessibility standards is mandatory, such as those defined by WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), as it will ensure that the application is accessible to all people. The ways listed below should assume that these standards are already implemented.

  • Decorative images are images that serve no specific purpose, which means they do not intend to convey any important meaning or information. In this case, it is recommended to use empty alternative text to avoid automatic reading or interpretation by screen readers.
  • Functional images are used to initiate actions instead of conveying information. It is very common to have images with a shortcut to assist in visual navigation, however, in terms of accessibility, it is essential that the alternative text be the description of the action and not the image itself, thus speeding up navigation and reducing the processing time of the screen reader.
  • Ensure a logical structure of the heading trees (H?), being composed of six possible levels of headers (from H1 to H6), the most important having a ranking of 1 and the least important title ranking of 6. By creating a semantically structured tree, we ensure ease of flow for the screen reader, reducing its processing.
  • Use a “Skip to Content” shortcut, which allows users to skip repetitive content on each screen load. The interpretation of these repetitive contents forces screens readers to process unnecessary information for the audience experience, also generating computer resource consumption.

These are some ways to implement sustainability in digital accessibility. In addition to the commitment to transforming experiences by making applications more accessible, we can also ensure that we are using available resources as efficiently as possible. The correlation between digital accessibility and sustainability in application source code is related to the development of accessible and viable technologies in the long term, which promotes social inclusion and responsible use of technological resources. We have a responsibility to ensure that digital products and services contribute to a better and more sustainable future.

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Marcelo Goberto Azevedo

Cloud Engineering Lead. More than 30 years coding, analyzing, and enjoying every moment