Why is web accessibility so important?
Creating a robust, attractive, easy-to-navigate website in today’s business world is vital. Yet few organizations truly prioritize their web design and content.
Rawnet shares its tips for creating web pages and designs with access at the forefront / Phil Gnottjse via Unsplash
You’re doing your company a disservice if you haven’t added web accessibility features for disability access.
Fortunately, you can add a new level of website accessibility for those individuals who need and want it once you understand the various strategies and available options. Therefore, it’s important for brands to consider web accessibility – from the vital roles it can play in assisting your target audience, to the many ways you can make your website more accessible to everyone.
Defining web accessibility
The WC3 Web Accessibility Initiative defines web accessibility as implementing various tools and technologies that make a website more usable for disabled individuals. This disability access levels the playing field by giving everyone fair access to the same online services, products and functions.
However, the term ‘disability’ covers more ground than you might realize in this application. While it applies to individuals with permanent disabilities, it can also apply to those who suffer from temporary disabilities. Others may contend only with situational disabilities, such as a sluggish internet connection or outdated hardware. Website accessibility options can help all of these individuals get more out of their online interactions with your organization.
Web accessibility benefits for disabled (and non-disabled) site visitors
By compensating for specific physical challenges, web accessibility can make online browsing much more productive and less frustrating for website visitors with disabilities. From audio descriptions of text and images to font size and cursor enhancements, accessible websites can help people absorb your web content and navigate your site more easily. In addition, websites that respond to voice commands can permit fluid navigation and usage for visitors whose musculoskeletal injuries or disorders might make using regular peripherals impossible.
Web accessibility can also benefit people who don’t have disabilities in the traditional sense. For instance, someone who struggles with chronic digital eye strain may appreciate the ability to boost font and cursor sizes, giving their tired eyes a welcome break. Some computer users prefer the hands-free convenience of text-to-speech or audio commands when exploring websites. As a result, improvements to your website accessibility can help you retain a larger audience of disabled and non-disabled potential buyers.
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Web accessibility guidelines and compliance standards
Web accessibility doesn’t just make sense for any business with an online presence; for many companies, it is also a legal must. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals while requiring businesses to modify their facilities and resources accordingly. If your business includes 15 or more employees working at least 20 weeks per calendar year, or if it offers accommodations to the general public, you must obey ADA policies. The current version of the ADA includes websites and other digital technologies within its parameters.
While ADA enforces website accessibility, WC3’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) outline the forms that accessibility should take. The latest version, WCAG 2.2, contains a detailed list of dos and don’ts across various categories, from audio and video accessibility enhancements to the finer points of peripheral response and screen timing. For instance, one rule states that most text must maintain a contrast ratio of 4.5 to one to address visual impairments. Another prohibits web pages or images that flash more than three times per second to safeguard individuals with seizure disorders.
Similarly, within the UK your website or mobile app must meet the ‘Public Sector Bodies (Website and Mobile Applications) (No.2) Accessibility Regulations 2018’ requirements, which build on the Equality Act 2010. It outlines that your website or mobile app will comply with the newer legal requirements if you:
Meet the international WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility standard (although there may be valid legal reasons for not meeting accessibility standards)
Publish an accessibility statement that explains how accessible your website or mobile app is
Web accessibility tools and options
You can employ a wide range of web accessibility tools and options to make your website easier for individuals with disabilities to view and use. The following common examples may help you expand your web accessibility strategy:
‘Dark mode’ or other high-contrast elements can make images and text easier to distinguish
Text magnification makes reading easier for individuals suffering from vision disorders
Careful color choices can prevent problems for color-blind viewers
Descriptive alt-text labels provide detailed verbal descriptions for people with visual impairments
Captions make video content usable for people with hearing impairments
Audio descriptions of video content allow blind people to follow the action
Multiple input device options help people with limited use of their hands
Straightforward, easy-to-follow content can help individuals struggling with cognitive or learning disorders
Consistent page layout choices can make links, icons and control elements easier to find and use
Headers and subheaders tagged with the appropriate HTML (instead of merely relying on boldface or larger font sizes to differentiate themselves from body text) allow visually impaired users to follow the site structure more easily
Now is the time for you to take the necessary steps to ensure you are making your website more widely accessible and compliant with national and global standards. A website development company with the proper web accessibility skills and experience can make helpful recommendations, adding the recommended accessibility options to your organization’s website for you.
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Rawnet is a digital agency that defines, designs, delivers and drives strategic products and services that create a long-term positive impact.Find out more