Meet Ellie, accessibility expert shares tips on creating an accessible website from 20 years industry experience

4 min read

The next in our series of meet the team articles, we speak to Ellie Davison, Accessibility Expert at Granite 5, to explore Ellie’s insights as the go-to person for accessibility.

TL; DR accessibility expert, tips on how to create a more accessible website, loves rosé wine and films.

Ellie’s interest in website development came when she discovered web pages to be a portable and accessible way of gaining information, much more so than books. Ellie has 5% vision, and so finding an alternative to books that was accessible, was a real turning point.

That’s when she decided to put her interest in website development to use, and learned how to create web pages to help other people with similar visual impairments to access information.

To achieve this, Ellie studied at the Royal National College for the Blind, to achieve a City & Guild in programming and IT. While studying, she also taught herself web programming in her spare time.

Ellie joined Granite 5 in 2000, initially as work experience after completing her studies, before taking on a part-time role, and eventually a full-time position as a junior designer and developer.

As she progressed her career she mastered PHP, HTML, and CSS, and helped move the agency from building static HTML sites to database-driven / content-managed websites we know today.

Ellie now manages the maintenance routines for our WordPress-based websites including security and plugin updates. With her first-hand insight into accessibility, she uses this knowledge to check all websites created by Granite 5 to ensure they are accessible for all. Testing across various technologies and including assistive devices.

With such extensive experience, Ellie shares key insights on what makes a successful accessible website, and how the industry has changed to make websites more inclusive.

Granite 5 > What do you think is key to delivering an accessible website?

Ellie > The biggest factors to think about to make a website more accessible are:

  • Making the navigation easy for someone using a keyboard.
  • Add Alt text to images if they contribute to the user understanding the page. If the image is purely for style, leave the alt text empty. Always think about the user experience. Will it help them understand the content more by adding alt text?
  • Be mindful some users will be viewing the website using magnification or a screen reader. Can this be done easily?

The W3C Accessibility Guidelines are a great resource to ensure your site is accessible. They include information such as recommended font size, providing captions and alternatives for multimedia, and making it easier for users to see and hear content.

Granite 5 > How do you feel accessibility in website development has changed during your career?

Ellie > Technology, in general, has advanced considerably since starting my career back in 2000. The fact that you can get a smartphone out and search for any information you need to know while on the move, is something that wasn’t possible when I started in the industry.

Back in my early career, I had someone who had to assist me to read hard copies of documents. Now everything is electronic, and I use magnification to expand documents. These types of advancements have made such a difference to people with disabilities.

Ways of coding have changed hugely since I started. It’s moved on so much. Gone are the old struggles of coding for Internet Explorer 6, which if you were a developer at that time, you will know my pain!

Also, having the web content accessibility guidelines as standard codes of practice has significantly helped improve the focus of ensuring websites are accessible for all users.

Granite 5> What is the project you are most proud of?

Ellie > We have supported many great visually impaired organisations over the years, including the Greater London Fund for the Blind and Vitaltech. But my favourite has to be BlindAid. They are such a great organisation, and I feel proud to have been part of the project to create their website to help raise awareness of their organisation.

Granite 5> What makes Granite 5 unique?

Ellie > There are many great aspects to Granite 5 that I feel make us unique, and I’m proud to work there.

We continually try to improve the support we offer our clients and are proactive in looking for new ideas and solutions to better support their businesses. As we work in such a fast-paced industry, this is something that I feel we really excel in and offers our clients an edge in their marketplace.

The team culture at Granite 5 is very inclusive and honestly feels like a family. As I’ve been in the company for 20 years now and one of the original team members, I have seen how Jill has worked to continually improve the team culture.

I also think our focus on accessibility is unique and is certainly something we are very proud of.

Granite 5> Finally, in such a fast-paced industry, how do you keep up to date on the latest accessibility information?

Ellie > The World Wide Consortium (W3C) website is a great resource to keep up to date on the latest changes and drafts of new updates they are proposing to make.

I also use Twitter as a useful source of insights to gain an understanding across the wider industry.

Ellie Davison - Granite 5