A11yAdvent Day 13: Zooming

Zooming. Good ol’ zooming. Why we even have to talk about zooming is a bit of a puzzler in itself. The long story short is that years ago, when responsive design became a real thing and everyone started building sites for mobile devices, it was fancy t…

Zooming. Good ol’ zooming. Why we even have to talk about zooming is a bit of a puzzler in itself. The long story short is that years ago, when responsive design became a real thing and everyone started building sites for mobile devices, it was fancy to prevent zooming so the site feels more “like an app”.

Let alone the fact that it would be nice being able to zoom in native applications sometimes, disabling zooming on the web is a big problem. It is the digital equivalent of saying “I personally like taking the stairs, so let’s remove the lift to gain some space.” It’s selfish and ill-guided.

Vision deficiencies are among the most common disabilities, and an awful lot of people need visual correction (through glasses or lenses) to see properly. Even if only a small portion of them actively need to zoom in, this means many people rely on this feature to browse the web conveniently.

Taking myself as an example. I have terrible eyes. I am very short-sighted and have a lazy-eye I can somewhat control thanks to years of orthoptics. But my poor vision is making me tired, which causes my lazy-eye to act up. And my lazy-eye acting up makes my eyes more tired. Which means my vision is not great. That’s why I zoom most sites between 100% and 150%.

So the takeaway is: do not disable zooming.

Additionally, I use the pinch-and-zoom trackpad gesture from my MacBook Pro on every single website. Every time I want to read something, I pinch to zoom to dramatically enlarge the content, read, then pinch out to scroll or navigate. Rince and repeat.

Screenshot of this blog opened in the browser, zoomed in to the max so the content touches the edges of the browser frame
This is how I browse the web: zoomed in to the max every time I want to read something

I’m fortunate that macOS provides this out of the box. Some people rely on assistive technologies for a similar feature. Note that screen magnifying techniques are ten times more common than usage of screen-readers, so it’s not an edge case that can easily be omitted. AxessLab has a good post about considering screen magnifiers.


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