Is Your Website Accessible?
Web accessibility is probably a phrase you have heard or read about a lot recently.
It’s a hot topic, with more people than ever having access to the Internet and not just on desktop but across a range of devices. As web designers, it is crucial that we take into account the usability of a website across all possible platforms and for all users, to ensure that it is accessible to everyone.
What Does Web Accessibility Actually Mean?
If you type the phrase into your search engine, Wikipedia will tell you:
Web accessibility is the inclusive practice of ensuring there are no barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to, websites on the World Wide Web by people with disabilities. When sites are correctly designed, developed and edited, generally all users have equal access to information and functionality.
But what does that mean in practice? Well it means that anyone, regardless of disability or impairment, regardless of the device they have or the browser they are using, should be able to view, navigate and essentially, fully benefit from what your website has to offer. From a business perspective, it just makes good sense – you want to reach as many customers as possible! Ultimately though, web accessibility is about creating equal opportunity for all to access online resources.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the web. They have put together the WCAG as a guide for all businesses to help them in improving their web accessibility. The document is divided into 4 sections, which set out the most important factors of creating a fully accessible website. These are: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust.
You can view the full guide here, but for now let’s have a brief look at these in a little more detail…
Simply put, can the content on your site be seen by all users in the way you intend it to be seen? This includes things such as colour scheme, type size and imagery, as well as ensuring you include things like alt text and captions.
A user needs to be able to navigate around all the pages and functions of a website. The majority of uses would do this with a mouse, but you need to ensure that your website is also navigable via the keyboard or similar device for those users who cannot use a mouse.
The guidelines say that the content of a site should appear and operate in predictable ways. The majority of users might intuitively now how a website functions, how to scroll down or navigate back a page, however that isn’t true for everyone. Because of this it’s important that if a website doesn’t function in this more predictable way, there are clear instruction provided on the page to aid in navigation. It is also important that the language of a website is well defined, so that for users with reading devices it can be easily processed.
For a website to be fully accessible, it needs to be compatible with a wide variety of assistive technologies in order that any user, regardless of impairment or disability, can access and properly navigate the content. This is a case of ensuring best practice when building the structure and code of the website, so that it can be interpreted by these technologies.
If you want some help making sure that your website is meeting the criteria set out in these accessibility guidelines, contact us about arranging an audit of your current website, or to talk to us about building a new, fully accessible site.