CSS and Accessibility: Inclusion through User Choice Guest Post

It is challenging to accurately understand the preferences of over 7.8 billion people at any given time. Carrie Fisher outlines which CSS media features are available for detecting user preferences and how they are used to design and build more inclusive experiences.

We make a series of choices every day. Get up early to work out or hit the snooze button? Double foam mocha latte or decaf green tea? Tabs or spaces? Our choices, even the seemingly insignificant ones, shape our identities and influence our perspectives on the world. In today’s modern landscape, we have come to expect a broad range of choices, regardless of the products or services we seek. However, this has not always been the case.

For example, there was a time when the world had only one font family. The first known typeface, a variant of Black letter, graced The first set of publicly-available GUI colors shipped with the 10th version of the X Window System consisted of 69 primary shades and 138 entries to account for various color variations (e.g., “dark red”). In September 1995, a Netscape programmer, Brendan Each, introduced “Mocha,” a scripting language that would later be renamed Live Script and eventually JavaScript.

Fast forward to the present day, and we now have access to over 650,000 web fonts, a hexadecimal system capable of representing 16,777,216 colors, and over 100 public-facing JavaScript frameworks and libraries to choose from. While this is great news for professionals designing and building user interfaces, what choices are we giving actual users? Shouldn’t they have a say in their experience?

CSS Media Features

While designers and developers may have some insights into user needs, it is very challenging to understand the actual user preferences of 7.8 billion people at any given time. Supporting the needs of individuals with disabilities and assistive technology adds a layer of complexity to an already complex situation. Nonetheless, designers and developers are responsible for addressing these user needs as best we can by providing accessible choices. One promising solution is user-focused CSS media features that allow us to customize the user experience and cater to individual preferences.