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What Does A11y Mean?

#A11Y. What Does It Mean?

Read time: 4 minutes

When it comes to web accessibility, the surrounding community places a strong emphasis on consistently practicing it.

People want you to constantly implement web-accessible methods that accommodate for lack of sight, sound, and touch. 

Write alt-text. Provide closed-captions. Offer proper contrast between text and background.

But along with that, there are also people within the community who take it a step further. Along with practicing web accessibility, they also go out of their way to educate their audience and those that aren’t fully aware of just how important web accessibility is. 

From teaching basic web-accessible practices (like writing alt-text) to providing detailed breakdowns of the latest updates to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), these individuals want to make sure that everyone has the tools to practice web accessibility. 

On social media, you can see many people referring to these people as a:


What Does It Mean?


(Well, the software engineer’s version of it.) 

So where does the “11” fall into this?

The “11” comes from conventions in software engineering, where engineers shorten longer words by replacing the middle letters with the number of letters in between the first and last letter.

The number of letters between “a” and “y” just so happens to be 11, and so engineers would have it listed as “a11y.”

Coincidentally, this also reads phonetically as “ally,” and this unique spelling has been quickly adopted within the web accessibility community.

But many people within the community don’t just see this unique spelling as a fun way to represent web accessibility, they also see it as a movement.

A movement to make the internet a more accessible space. 

A Completely Accessible Experience

At its core, being an a11y is not just about creating accessible websites and content. 

It’s about the web experience as a whole. 

People within the a11y community want to make the hardware and software that people use to enjoy the internet accessible as well.

For example, instead of simply having normal laptops, the a11y community wants laptops that are easier to open in case a user is missing fingers or their hands. 

From proper keyboard navigation to providing free, quality screen reader software, the a11y movement is working to identify affordable and easy-to-access methods that anyone can use to improve accessibility to the web.

But for a majority of people, a lot of their focus within the a11y movement is set squarely on web development, design, automation, and content creation. 

Today, you see many of these people placing focus on easy-to-do practices that can help millions of people, such as alt-text, reading levels, and closed captions. Although many of these practices are simple, the impact they have on people with disabilities is massive, and it’s key to creating an inclusive community.  

Our View of A11y

At Unity, our goal in being an a11y focuses squarely on accessible website design and knowledge-sharing. We want to make sure that people not only have a beautiful and easy-to-use website but also have the skills and tools to make the changes as they see fit! 

For us, our goal is to make the internet radically inclusive one website at a time. And although we have solutions available to help with that, we believe that this goal can only truly be achieved by working together. 

It’s why we have resources like our Essential Guide to Web Accessibility.

(Ironically nicknamed our A11y Guide).

We believe through knowledge-sharing and taking the “open-source” approach to web accessibility, we’ll be able to see a version of the internet that is usable by everyone. Regardless if they’re blind, deaf, paraplegic, and more.

With the internet becoming such an important tool for business and even everyday life, everyone should be able to utilize all of its tools. 

For us, that’s how we see being an “a11y.” 

What’s your view on being an a11y? How do you practice web accessibility in your day-to-day life online? 

Feel free to reach out to us at [email protected]. We’d love to hear your story and even get some tips on how to be a stronger a11y!