Considering the internet’s global reach, it is important that websites are accessible to all users. The term web accessibility refers to making websites as inclusive as possible to as many users as possible, whether they have disabilities or not.
While this can not sound important to some, it is especially critical for people with disabilities, who make up an estimated 15% of the population globally. We all have a duty to ensure that their needs are met by considering their capabilities when making our sites and apps.
A website is
- Perceivable if it can get accessed and interacted with, regardless of how someone interacts with a computer
- Operable if it adheres to standards so screen readers can interpret them
- Understandable if it can get understood by different languages, cultures, and literacy levels
- Robust if its structure helps overcome barriers that prevent users from accessing content or using functions.
What Does Accessibility Mean for Website Owners?
Although the internet gets geared toward a younger demographic, older individuals and those with disabilities make significant use of the internet. The trend has only increased with time, and now necessary to make sure that your website is accessible to everyone who wishes to visit it. If you are a website owner, here are some fundamental considerations for making your site accessible.
What Is Accessibility?
The term accessibility generally refers to the ease of your site being usable by people with different restrictions and preferences. For example, design guidelines such as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act require federal agencies to purchase technology that can get used by people with disabilities. Therefore, websites maintained by federal agencies must adhere to Section 508 compliance.
Similarly, many other sites help numerous organizations maintain voluntary standards. Web accessibility from accessiBe is one service helping to adhere to the guidelines and make the website acceptable for all.
The ADA and Website Accessibility
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was a major step in making sure that people with disabilities are able to live and work independently. In the 20+ years since the ADA informed and inspired other nations’ laws. Its impact includes the formulation of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the World Wide Web Consortium’s WCAG 2.0 standards for accessibility.
What does all this mean for web developers? The fundamental considerations for making your website accessible remain the same:
- Identify who your site visitors are (ADA)
- Keeping people on track in their navigation across your website (WCAG 2.0)
- Dealing with how users interact with your site (WCAG 2.2)
Accessibility Procedures and Requirements
The W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is a best practice that aims to make web content usable and easily accessible for everyone. It gives requirements for accessibility safeguards, such as ensuring text and images are sufficiently labeled. To do this, WCAG has standardized checklists of how to test and document your web site’s accessibility features.
Automated Solutions Ensuring Web Accessibility
When it comes to making websites accessible, automated solutions are key. There are a number of different standards that help ensure accessibility, and being aware of them is an important step in the right direction.
First, let us look at the concept of universal designs and how they optimize for accessibility. It involves designing products for everyone in a population rather than just a subset of people who fit certain parameters. If you build access into your infrastructure from the beginning instead of adding it later, you get better equipped to accommodate anyone who may need your product down the line.
For example, say you make computer software for kids with visual impairments. You may not feel it necessary to ensure your software is accessible for blind users first, since there are no blind children using computers yet.
But what happens when ten years from now, there are only two schools for blind children in a state? What if one school uses computers and another uses braille? By building your system with universal design principles in mind, you will ensure access for both schools without having to make complex adjustments later on down the road.
When making a website, accessibility often comes as an afterthought. It’s not uncommon for websites to lack basic considerations for people with disabilities and impairments. However, these same users represent a major portion of the population, and they deserve more consideration than they get.
Studies show that as many as one billion people have some disability or impairment. It makes them harder to reach for businesses that look at their own personal experience.
Easy-to-use website functionality is one way your business can appeal to this range of potential customers. It can help you rank higher in search results or social media recommendations!