How to make your website accessible – and why this is important
By Björn Grape
Accessibility is a term used to describe the way in which information, products, devices or services are designed for people with disabilities or special needs. In this blog post, we will be discussing what web accessibility means and how you can use it to improve your website.
Web accessibility and why you should be familiar with it
Web accessibility is concerned with making the web open to everyone, enabling people with disabilities to participate equally on the web and removing the barriers that prevent interaction with websites. For example, when text and images are enlargeable, you make it easier for users with poor sight to view content. When pages are coded so that users can navigate with a keyboard alone, people who cannot use a mouse have an easier time accessing information on the website.
Users will always have different needs. According to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, information and communications technologies, including the web, are recognized as a basic human right. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has worked to consolidate standards of web accessibility by creating guidelines, the most well-known of which are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These are internationally recognized by governments and businesses and describe ways to make web content accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.
The importance of web accessibility and legal implications
Web accessibility does not just concern people with disabilities. It has many benefits, for everyone. For example, video captions are useful when working in noisy environments, such as cafes, and good colour contrast works better when users have to deal with glare. In fact, a well-thought out design and layout means that everyone can enjoy a better user experience.
There are also legal reasons to pay attention to accessibility. In 2016, EU published the Web Accessibility Directive - a set of legal requirements for digital accessibility within the public sector which ask concerned parties to ensure their websites are accessible in accordance with the latest WCAG standard. In Sweden, the directive is interpreted in the proposition “Genomförande av webbtillgänglighetsdirektivet”, a law which is expected to come into force on the 1st of January 2019.
Similarly, the UK has had new legal regulations come into play for public sector bodies on the 23rd of September 2018. These stipulate that websites should strive to be more accessible, publish an accessibility statement including details of content that does not meet these standards, and be able to provide an accessible alternative if someone requests it.
So, what does this mean? Well, Sweden already had the anti-discrimination law of 2008 and the UK had the similar Equality Act of 2010. Both aim to prevent discrimination, including in the case of digital products and services. What the EU directive actually does is to provide a more specific requirement: adhering to the latest WCAG standard.
How to get started with web accessibility
Starting to implement web accessibility practices is a piece of cake! Here are a few easy tips to get you started.
First and foremost, if you are involved in creating websites or web content, familiarize yourself with WCAG recommendations. Secondly, use a range of testing methods to assess the usability of your website. Consider including any of the following options: automated testing, screen reader testing, keyboard testing, colour contrast testing, and testing with disabled users. A good place to start is the W3C's getting started guide, which is a good practice list to help you meet WCAG requirements.
If you’d like further information or help with web accessibility, feel free to contact us. And if you have already started to work with accessibility practices? Great! Keep testing, keep improving and keep contributing to the creation of a more inclusive digital world for everyone.