Accessibility has become a primary focus across the web community and is definitely not just another fly-by-night trend. Web Accessibility is necessary, relevant and going forward, will probably become the primary consideration when developing or managing any web property.
The team at Little Forest explains why: “Achieving Web Accessibility is the only way to create a truly inclusive digital environment which doesn’t discriminate or neglect potential users. It is the gateway to give every user the same opportunity.”
In this article, we’ll be discussing the basics of Web Accessibility, including what it is, why everybody needs to consider it, the laws around it as well as a few tools to consider when getting started.
So, what exactly is Web Accessibility?
According to the WC3, Web Accessibility is:
The practice of formatting your website to make sure that everyone can equally access, navigate and interact with the content on your site.
Web Accessibility supports social inclusion for people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these.
Additionally, Web Accessibility aims to support people facing socio-economic restrictions such as living in rural areas or developing countries as well as users with situational disadvantages such as slow network connections or for those using mobile devices.
Why is it Important for Individuals, Businesses and Society?
If you think about Web Accessibility as a real-world example, it would simply entail the act of treating everyone the same. You wouldn’t prohibit a person with a disability from entering your office. So, why would you exclude them from using your website?
Accessible Design improves the overall user experience of anyone wanting to use the internet. When sites are designed, developed and edited to the correct standards, most users will have equal access to the site’s functionality and the information it presents.
For businesses, Accessibility includes many benefits too. It can enhance brand awareness, drive innovation, and extend market reach.
“Having an accessible site is like telling the world that your company is inclusive, attentive to all customers, respective of best practices, and in step with the times. This highlights your brands quality and attracts customers and partners who want to be part of a good culture.”
Over the past few years, providing accessible websites has become a legal requirement in some countries. This is good for businesses as it can open markets that otherwise would not be available for their services or products.
Finally, there is also a significant cross-reference between the Accessibility Standards and Search Engine Optimisation Best Practices. This means that by improving your Website Accessibility, you will improve your visibility in search engines too.
Let’s get Legal!
As mentioned earlier, it has become a legal requirement in some countries to offer accessible websites.
Currently, the USA is the leading country with lawsuits arising from the legislation. But this may start, perhaps to a lesser extent, in the UK and European countries too.
It is also important to note that as of 23 September 2020, it will become law for all Public Sector organisations (Councils, Universities, Schools etc.) to have their websites comply with the WCAG 2.1 AA standard.
To view the laws of Accessibility for multiple countries, we suggest you visit https://www.w3.org/WAI/policies/
Keep an eye on our site for a future article that delves a little deeper into the legalities of Web Accessibility.
As the US will soon be conforming to the WCAG standards, we recommend this be the only accreditation body to consider.
“The WCAG is developed through the W3C process in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world, with a goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.”
The good news is that if you’ve made your websites compliant with the WCAG, you are complying with all country laws. Their standards enforce very good practices when it comes to making your content and pages usable. By complying to these standards, you are essentially making websites better and more user-friendly for everyone.
The key to successfully designing and developing for accessibility is to think beyond yourself and your own usage patterns. Spend time studying diverse users to understand how they use the web, instead. Users within specific disability groups require specialised tools to aid them in their use of the web.
According to MDN Web Docs, “The most common types of disability to consider are listed below, along with the specialised tools used by each group to access their web content. These are known as Assistive Technologies or ATs.
People with visual impairments include people with blindness, low-level vision, and colour blindness. Many people with visual impairments use screen magnifiers that are either physical magnifiers or software zoom capabilities. Most browsers and operating systems these days have zoom capabilities.
Some users will rely on screen readers, which is software that reads digital text aloud.
People with auditory impairments or deaf people have either got low hearing levels or no hearing at all. Hearing-impaired people do use ATs, but there aren’t any specifically for computer/web use.
There are, however, specific techniques for providing textual alternatives to audio content. They range from simple text transcripts to text tracks (i.e. captions) that can be displayed along with a video.
These people have disabilities concerning movement. It might involve purely physical issues (such as loss of limb or paralysis), or neurological/genetic disorders that lead to weakness or loss of control in limbs.
Some people might have difficulty making the exact hand movements required to use a mouse. Others might be more severely affected, perhaps being significantly paralyzed to the point where they need to use a head pointer to interact with computers.
The way this usually affects web development work is the requirement that controls be accessible by the keyboard.
Cognitive impairment refers to a broad range of disabilities. It ranges from people with intellectual disabilities (who have the most-limited capabilities) to all of us as we age and have difficulty thinking and remembering.
These include difficulty with understanding content, remembering how to complete tasks, and confusion caused by inconsistent webpage layouts.
A good foundation of accessibility for people with cognitive impairments includes:
- delivering content in more than one way, such as by text-to-speech or by video;
- easily-understood content, such as text written using plain-language standards;
- focusing attention on important content;
- minimizing distractions, such as unnecessary content or advertisements;
- consistent webpage layout and navigation;
- familiar elements, such as underlined links blue when not visited and purple when visited;
- dividing processes into logical, essential steps with progress indicators;
- website authentication as easy as possible without compromising security; and
- making forms easy to complete, such as with clear error messages and simple error recovery.”
How can you start your Web Accessibility Journey?
With Little Forest, you’re not getting another accessibility tool, you’re getting a digital quality platform.
This friendly, talented and skilled team of web professionals work with organisations not only to meet the WCAG AA accessibility requirements but also to look at the quality of their sites as a whole.
The Little Forest team will run a full report and analyse your entire site. This will explain where the issues are, how they are affecting your users and suggest ways to make improvements.
Websites that use Little Forest understand exactly who they are and how to take the next steps to enhance their quality. They prioritise better and get everyone working towards a mutual goal.
The Little Forest mission: “to work on the world’s best web platforms and make them even better”.
Web Accessibility isn’t just beneficial for people with disabilities; it’s an initiative that can improve all your user’s experiences.
Tenacity Works has the services to assist you with a fully accessible website. Together with the expertise from the Little Forest team, we will ensure that you are 100% compliant and able to welcome users (able-bodied or differently-abled) from all across the world.
Ready to get started? Get in touch.