Technology and the web are supposed to make people’s lives easier. Accessibility means creating a website that anyone (no matter what the person’s physical, cognitive, or current ability is) can navigate, interact, and contribute to that website.
Here at Squarebird, we have comprised this article to help you navigate your way through web accessibility and lists some simple ways to make your website more accessible.
What is Website Accessibility and Who Does it Cater to?
Also known as digital accessibility, website accessibility is the process of understanding the different needs of people and making websites accessible to meet the relevant requirements. Considering the varying accessibility issues, both temporary and permanent, allows you to create a website design that is easier to navigate for everyone, thus enhancing user experience.
When thinking of accessibility issues, consider people with movement, hearing, speech, or vision disabilities. It would help if you also considered people with impaired cognitive or neurological functioning. Some people also face age-related accessibility issues, hampering functioning.
While these may be more permanent, you must consider temporary disabilities as a website owner. For example, someone has a broken arm or situational disabilities like trying to watch a video in a noisy area, etc. The idea is to be mindful of how permanent, temporary, or situational disabilities can make it difficult or impossible for a person to engage with your website content––text, navigation, videos, images, and all other forms of media.
Why is Web Accessibility Important?
As mentioned, web accessibility makes your website — and its content — more user-friendly and easier to understand for all visitors. This includes those with disabilities and limitations such as:
- Low vision
- Learning disabilities
- Cognitive disabilities
- Hearing loss
- Speech disabilities
- Physical disabilities
Web accessibility isn’t optional; it’s a must-have. By prioritising your site’s level of accessibility, you will not only enhance the user experience for all of your visitors — including those with disabilities or limitations who land on your site but you will also demonstrate your company’s commitment to inclusivity. By doing this, you show your visitors, leads, and customers that you value and care about them as individuals — and in return, this investment will boost your brand loyalty and advocacy.
Meeting web accessibility standards may sound like the right thing to do at this point (and it is) — but is it required of you by law?
If you run a government website, you must abide by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act guidelines. However, there are not any enforceable laws for everyday businesses. Despite the fact that web accessibility isn’t a formal law doesn’t mean your business will automatically avoid a lawsuit. There are multiple cases in which major companies have been sued for lacking an accessible website.
To avoid legal trouble — or simply pushing visitors away — make sure your website doesn’t prevent anyone from consuming, navigating, or obtaining any of the information you share.
What Does Web Accessibility Look Like?
WW3C spearheaded the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) to develop technical specifications, techniques, guidelines and resources that assist individuals, businesses, and organizations in making digital properties accessible. WAI produced the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which are the most widely accepted accessibility standards.
The guidelines state four principles of accessibility:
- Perceivable: Users must be able to detect the contents of the page and user interface.
- Operable: Users must be able to interact with the components of the page, such as navigation features and the user interface.
- Understandable: Users must be able to understand the content and how to use the user interface.
- Robust:No matter what the web page looks like or contains, it must remain accessible to a variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
Text Alternative for Images
Providing text alternatives for your website images will allow people to engage with your website through a screen reader to get descriptions for your website images.
Not everyone uses a mouse to navigate through a website and uses only their keyboard to do so. Thus, ensure your website is designed and structured in a way that makes it easy for keyboard navigation.
Website Colours and Language
Harsh colours, light colours, and strong colour contrasts can make it difficult for some people to interact with your website. Use easy-on-the-eye colours for text, backgrounds, blocks, and all other website elements to make it fully accessible. In the same way, consider people with learning or cognitive disabilities and how your website language aids them. Keep the language simple and easy to comprehend. This might also help all your website users to understand your message better.
Once you’ve done this, a good next step would be a complete website accessibility evaluation. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a complete evaluation of your website to see where you currently stand in terms of accessibility and what more you need to do to match the accessibility standards.
Ready to Be Fully Accessible?
When developing or redesigning a website, evaluate accessibility early and throughout the development process to identify accessibility problems early on, when it is easier to address them. Simple steps, such as changing settings in a browser, can help you evaluate some aspects of accessibility. Comprehensive evaluation to determine if a website meets all accessibility guidelines takes more effort.
With website accessibility, you can be available for anyone and everyone, regardless of how they engage or learn online, their permanent, temporary, or situational disabilities, as well as their abilities.
Get in touch with one of our friendly and professional members of the team today to get the ball rolling towards a more inclusive future in web design. Alternatively, take a look at some of our case studies to get a clearer understanding of what it means to be easily accessible.