The internet is used by people from all walks of life and hence the content on it has to be accessible by everyone. The websites have to be designed in such a way that even people with visual disabilities can use it. But as of now, many sites have barriers of accessibility that makes it impossible or difficult for a few people to use. Hence it is essential to make it web-accessible.
What is Web Accessibility?
The meaning of ‘accessibility’ is that everyone irrespective of their physical condition has access to things like the internet, buildings, transport, etc. Website accessibility means that even those who have disabilities can use the web to navigate and interact through the internet. It benefits people who have low internet connectivity and also elders who have impairments due to aging.
Digital accessibility means that mobile apps and websites should not have any barriers and everyone
including people with disabilities are provided with the content on par with others.
Who is concerned?
As per stats published there are:
About 2.2 billion people globally who are visually impaired or blind
1 billion people have a partial vision impairment
People over the age of 50 years are more likely to have a visual impairment
About 466 million people globally have permanent hearing loss
Web accessibility ensures that everyone is able to navigate and read the content irrespective of their disability which can be:
Permanent disability : Blind or deaf people who are completely disabled
Temporary disability : Physical disability that is temporary in nature which hinders the ability to fulfill responsibilities for a short time
Conditional disability : This is a disability when you are unable to do things due to a certain situation. Ex: a slow internet connection.
Why is Web Accessibility important?
In every aspect of a person’s life like education, health, commerce, employment, government, etc., the internet is used. Hence it is necessary that the digital resources be accessible to everyone so that it creates an equal platform. It is essential that an accessible web is provided so that people with disabilities are given opportunities to actively participate in society.
It is mandated by law and policies that organizations ensure that their digital resources are accessible without any barriers.
Having an accessible website means that your business has the reputation of being socially responsible as that makes it easy to conduct business even with people with disabilities. For example, people who have visual impairment may have difficulty reading small print or they are unable to go to stores, etc.
Being web accessible is part of corporate social responsibility.
A web-accessible website is likely to be higher in the SEO rankings.
Web accessibility is among the best practices for usability, web and mobile design principles.
There is no accessibility barriers for print, visual or audio media and information is accessible to people with disabilities also.
Why should your website be compliant?
People with disabilities use assistive devices to gain access to information be it about stores, education, music, movies, etc. In the United States, government, state, and federal websites should meet section 508 regulations. But there are no legal standards that can be enforced for web accessibility. Despite that, your business can face a lawsuit due to a lack of accessibility. Know the regulations and laws of your country as the legal system can hear cases filed by people with disabilities if it is not web-accessible.
There are a few standards in place that need to be followed as part of universally accepted protocols. These are put in place by the World Wide Web Consortium, W3C and called the accessibility guidelines, WCAG. Developing accessibility website following the WCAG and Section 508 guidelines a will ensure that the site is web-accessible.
What happens if you do not comply with the law?
Web accessibility is not something that your business should ignore. Apart from the loss of reputation and creating a bad image for the company, you will have to pay hefty fines as settlements and penalties.
As per the guidelines of Section 504/508, fines in the tune of $55,000 has to be paid for a first-time violation and $110, 000 for each of the future violations.
Non-compliance will lead to revocation of federal funding for those businesses that get Federal funding.
For those businesses that have been sued under the ADA Title III, apart from the settlement costs, there will be attorney fees and court fees that the company has to pay. They also have to spend on making the website accessible.
To prevent all this unnecessary expenditure, hire competent ADA website compliance consultants who can help in preventing lawsuits and fines.
Guidelines on Accessible Web
The first Web accessibility initiative called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, WCAG 1.0 was published in 1999. Almost a decade later, in 2008 the WCAG 2.0 recommendations were released. The aim of these recommendations was to update the earlier guidelines and to keep things technology agnostic. Designers can opt to implement WCAG 1.0 or 2.0 but the latter is accepted as the definitive guideline to create accessible websites. In 2012, the ISO/IEC 40500:2012: Information technology – W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 was published.
WCAG 2.0 and 2.1
The WCAG is developed with the help of individuals and organizations with the intent of providing content that is web accessible to everyone. The guidelines detail how designers can make their digital content (web applications, web pages, documents, text, images, audio, video, code or markup that describes structure) accessible to everyone including people with disabilities.
The WCAG was released in 2018 and all the requirements from 2.0 are continued in 2.1. That essentially means that the content that fulfills WCAG 2.1 requirements also fulfills 2.0 guidelines. There are a few additional criteria that aid people with disabilities that are present in 2.1 which are not present in 2.0. As per WCAG recommendations, using the latest version is the best.
How To Make Your Website Accessible?
Implementing accessibility for a website is not complicated provided the designer understands the issues that lead to making it inaccessible. Ensure that:
Content should be accessible : The information that is available on the web application or a web page is accessible. It includes text, sounds, videos, and images. It also includes the markup that represents the structure and presentation and the code is accessible.
The website is keyboard friendly : It should work without using a mouse as most assistive technologies use a keyboard for navigation. Ensure that the web content and navigation can be accessed using the ‘Tab’ key.
Add ALT-Text to images : This ensures that assistive technologies read out the text which represents the images.
Choose the colors properly : A dark-colored text against a light background ensures that the text is seen properly as it stands out from the rest. Choose colors so that the various elements on the page can be distinguished by everyone.
Use headers : Structure your content by including headers and subheaders as it makes navigation easier. It also helps the screen readers to interpret the content properly.
Make forms accessible : The form design should be such that it is accessible. Every field has to be labeled clearly and it should match the corresponding fields. Provide clear information in an easy to understand manner.
Use tables for tabular data only : Tables should be used only for tabular data as it is difficult for screen readers to interpret it.
Why Website Accessibility Audits are Important?
Web accessibility audits can be considered as a type of testing that finds issues with accessibility on a website. Consultants, companies and even organizations conduct these audits and provide guidance on steps to correct the issues. They use automated tools as well as do manual testing to check if the users encounter any problems with accessibility. The reviewers are knowledgeable in web design technologies and can identify problems in web pages and provide feedback on their findings.
Remediating inaccessible websites
There are many companies and consultants that provide
website accessibility services where they not only conduct an audit of existing websites for accessibility errors but also help in remediating those websites. There are two options for making the inaccessible website compliant. One is to correct the source code with errors and test it to check if the issues are fixed. The other option is to create a new site that follows the accessibility guidelines.
Website designers and owners have to ensure that their sites are web-accessible be it when building a new one or otherwise. That will ensure that it is accessible to everyone including people with disabilities.