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What Is Accessibility?

The internet access has helped to transform the lives of many. The digital world has no barriers of age, language, location or hardware. But there are a few people who are unable to experience it the way they should. That is because many of the websites and documents are not accessible to people with diverse abilities. To cater to everyone, websites have to be designed keeping in mind accessibility.

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What is Accessibility?

Designing for accessibility means, the websites are constructed such that people with disabilities can also use it conveniently. Excluding a person with visual impairment is as wrong as not providing the right amenities for a person with a wheelchair to enter a building.

Accessibility is a legal and social obligation and is the right thing to do as it ensures all visitors get a great digital experience. Accessibility not only benefits those who have impairments but also for those who use mobile devices or have slow network connections. It means that you are treating everyone fairly by providing equal opportunities irrespective of their circumstances or ability. It also helps your business open to markets that otherwise would not be unable to use. To summarize the benefits of accessibility:

  • Improves the business image and also showcases good morals and ethics

  • Is mandated by law and guidelines

  • Helps to boost your SEO as it makes the website more searchable

  • Makes it more accessible to even people with low-speed network

Implementing accessibility

Accessibility presents the information available in the digital world through many sensory channels like sound and sight. That is in addition to the keyboard controls and navigation through voice. A combination of multiple interactivity approach and multisensory approach aids in disabled users to access the same information as others. That can happen by implementing the best practices of accessibility services like:

Web Accessibility: should be kept in mind in all aspects of web development from the product design to implementation. To make the site more accessible, the demographics, target audience, use cases, and even limitations need to be considered. Accessibility is not something that is ‘extra’ or an ‘add on’ it is an integral part of your application. Some of the best practices that have to be followed when creating a new application or modifying it to become more accessible are:

  • Color should not be used as a navigational tool or a way to differentiate content

  • All the images should have ALT Text with complex images having more extensive descriptions

  • All the functionality that requires a mouse and keyboard to access should work with voice-control tools.

  • Test the website for 508 compliance and WCAG

  • Provide in-sync captioning for videos on your website

  • Include skip navigation feature

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Document Accessibility : All documents irrespective of the format should be accessible. To accomplish that there are a few basic things that have to be followed while creating content. The basic principles will remain the same for all types of documents but the steps will be different depending on the tool you are using to create it. Listed below are those important principles for creating accessible documents.

  • Use headings: The authoring tool’s built-in feature should be used to identify and include headings and subheadings. The heading should be such that it outlines the content on the page. Subheadings help in understanding page organization and also allows the users of screen readers to go to the point of interest.

  • Use lists: It helps the screen reader to know the organization of content. It also reads the number of items on the list and other useful information which helps to decide whether to continue reading or not.

  • Use meaningful hyperlinks: It should provide proper information about the destination. A customized and meaningful short URL name should be given for documents that are print material.

  • Add alternate text to images: The Alt text conveys information about the images to people who cannot see. If the image is only decorative, a specific markup is needed so that the screen reader can skip it.

  • Identify document language: Most screen readers are multilingual, so the language of the document should be mentioned so that they use the right language settings.

  • Use tables wisely: Tables are useful to represent data and their relationship. But making complex tables accessible to screen readers is tricky and hence it is best to divide it into smaller tables. The rows and the column headers have to be clearly identified to make it readable by screen readers.

  • Understand how to export from one format to another: Most authoring tools provide a way to export the documents to PDF. The documents need to be ‘tagged’ so that all the above features are included in the document. But some authoring tools don’t support tagged PDFs while others do.

Remediation of documents: PDF is the most common format and most of these files do not meet the accessibility requirements. So these cannot be used by people with disabilities, so many organizations opt for remediation by PDF accessibility services so that it meets the guidelines. These services ensure that the content is digitally accessible, meet the compliance standards and is accessible to everyone.

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Accessibility testing

Businesses that have implemented accessibility should ensure that it is tested. It can be done in-house or by hiring accessibility testing companies. The focus should not only be on checking usability but also to make sure that people with disabilities can use it effectively. Accessibility testing of a website or a document involves using tools as well as extensive manual examination. It can be done using automated and manual testing of the elements of the digital content.

Ensuring accessibility means that everyone benefits and use your website or documents with ease.