The Relevance of Web Accessibility
Table of Content
Information is a human right. So, when we talk about "accessibility", we must refer to all people. In this sense, Web Accessibility encompasses content, design, and tools everyone can enjoy. This comes as a response to the principle of equality. In this case, web equality aims for the right to fair Internet access. You might have experienced this at least once in your life. There are many examples of unfriendly pages, with poor design or loading slowness. If this can be frustrating, how do you think it suits people with different disabilities? As a way to deep down into this topic, we'd like to introduce you to the concept of Web Accessibility.
What is Web Accessibility?
Web Accessibility describes tools and techs for people with disabilities in digital ecosystems. It rises from the idea that everyone should be able to access and use websites and apps correctly. This goes from people with limited use of their arms to people who process info differently. Also, it includes the population that has different issues with vision or hearing. Integration is key to achieving better UX. As a result, techs keep being built to establish accessibility. Moreover, devs must keep this in mind to avoid user exclusion. Accessibility needs to be considered from the beginning of the process. Since the first steps, teams must acknowledge the place that accessibility will have. A major goal for any product should be massive access. If you want major reach, accessibility shouldn't be an added afterthought.
Why is Web Accessibility Important?
In any project, it's our duty to reach everyone within our audience. This comes across regardless of their abilities or circumstances. A WHO study concludes that there are over one billion people with disabilities around the world. That‘s near 15 % of the global population! This number includes physical disabilities, as well as cognitive and neurological ones. These rates seem only set to increase due to ageing and an increase in health difficulties. Also, when talking about accessibility, we aim to include not only permanent disabilities. Let's put, as an example, the sense of sight. A blind person can carry a permanent disability, yes. But, cataracts can be temporary, and traffic accident sequels can be situational disabilities. So, we must consider the larger amount of scenarios to guarantee full accessibility. In the end, it's all about inclusion. All people should be able to access information in the same ways and manners. Luckily, there are available techs focused on reducing or removing these barriers. These ensure people of all ages and capacities have good experiences on the internet.
Despise creating more inclusive spaces, accessibility strategies also have business benefits. After all, it's a key of Design and Development that reaches almost every element of a product. It encompasses mobile-friendliness, device independence, multi-modal interaction, usability, SEO, and more. What's more, these can achieve better search results, reduced costs, and increased reach. All while showing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Thus, accessible platforms don't only expand reach to include people with disabilities. Also, they can improve the User Experience for all users of your site.
Web Accessibility Standards
Both Designers and Developers must acknowledge they're not always their projects' final users. As a result, they need to recognize the need for accessibility. This includes practising empathy and having an open-minded setup about different potential users. And, as we said, this applies from the very first encounter with any project.
That's why the Accessibility Standards arose. They also serve to create certain followable guidelines to keep every site on the same page. The first of them was created in 1995 by Dr Cynthia Waddel. Her standard became an important starting point for other well-known guidelines. Yet, she's also known for the accessibility testing software Cynthia Says. Among its rules, it included alternative texts for images. That standard stays valid up until today. Since then, many other guidelines have emerged. Also, different tools have appeared to create easier interactions over the internet. For instance, screen readers like VoiceOver or NVDA. These are nowadays well-used among people with blindness or low vision.
In this context, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) created The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Within its goals, its shared rules aim to set protocols for web content accessibility. Not only does The WCAG regularizes plain info, like texts, images, and sounds. It also embraces codes and markups that define a platform's structure. Currently, there are two versions of WCAG: WCAG 2.0 and 2.1. The first, WCAG 2.0, from 2008, became an ISO standard in 2012. Moreover, WCAG 2.1 launched in 2018. Despise extra criteria added, all requirements from 2.0 are needed in 2.1. In summary, the WCAG comes as the foundation of web accessibility legislation. Its success criteria receive three levels of conformance. These are Level A, AA, and AAA.
Level A covers the basic requirements of accessibility. Also, it falls as the least degree to meet. Any failure to comfort this level will result in a completely inaccessible platform. The next level addresses common barriers for people with disabilities. Level AA is nowadays the highest level of conformance required by most websites. This is because it removes the biggest accessibility difficulties. The latter, Level AAA, is the highest achievable level under WCAG. And, in consequence, it's the most desirable to achieve. That means, of course, it's the most difficult to reach for most sites.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) took effect in 1990, under President George H.W. Bush. Nowadays, it's known as one of America's moth comprehensive laws on civil legislation. It prohibits discrimination while guaranteeing the same opportunities for people with disabilities. Its purpose is to assure participation in the mainstream of American life. This includes civil areas like employment, and products and services acquisition. Also, it encompasses participation in State and local government programs and services. The ADA is part of the "equal opportunity" laws. In this case, it attends to people with disabilities. These equality laws got modelled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In these, discrimination on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex, or origin is prohibited. In 2010, the Department of Justice released new guidelines for public organizations. These include all disabled people that use computers and smart devices. According to Forbes, there has been an increase in website accessibility lawsuits. In these cases, plaintiffs cannot access websites because of incompatibility with assistive technologies.
In such cases, plaintiffs usually cite ADA Title III violations. This title provides that “no individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation.” (42 U.S.C. § 12182(a)). A Plaintiff in a Title III ADA claim must prove 3 elements to prevail.
1. Plaintiff is disabled within the meaning of the ADA
2. Defendant owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation
3. Plaintiff was denied public accommodation by Defendant due to his or her disability.
Great Examples of Web Accessibility
This site sets a standard for accessibility best practices. Its most notorious feature is its keyboard navigation. This comes especially helpful for those who have trouble manipulating a massive-use mouse. With this solution, users can navigate the BBC’s site using the Tab button. Further, pressing it twice reveals a "Skip to Content" option. This allows users to avoid extensive navigations.
Mighty offers a platform for education-related courses, communities, and memberships. Further, it has amazing features on accessibilty. In this sense, it has legible and well-contrasted text and imagery. Also, its videos and effect are not disturbing to sensitive users. What's more, this site makes use of ARIA tags* and ALT text for assisting-screen reading users.
1% For The Planet
This site encompasses different businesses and organizations. Moreover, they've all agreed to donate 1% of their profits to environmental causes. The network's site presents its content in a simple manner. Yet, it shows from start its commitment to accessibility. For instance, it uses high-contrasting text, ARIA* tags, and thorough HTML page structuring. Also, it counts with full mobile responsiveness as well.
*ARIA stands for Accessible Rich Internet Applications. This acronym refers to a group of HTML roles, states, and properties. These describe certain UI elements' purposes and are compatible with assistive technologies.
Web Accessibility Principles
All previous standards, rules, and guidance above may be confusing. Where should you start when creating a more accessible platform? When faced with this question, the four principles of web accessibility come helpful. These four concepts are under the POUR acronym. Let's check them out!
P - Perceivable
To most users, the concept of perceivable got connections with visual elements. This means that user interfaces must rely on empirical manners. In consequence, no relevant information must remain ununderstandable, undetectable, or invisible.
O - Operable
This principle applies to users' navigation through a site. For instance, its buttons, controls, and blank spaces. These all have to be operable. Operable sites encompass things like clicking, tapping, swiping, or rolling. People with all conditions must be able to perform these basic actions.
U - Understandable
Sites and apps need to be clear and consistent both in form and presentation. The goal inhere is that no one has any comprehension issues whit the given info. This encompasses both its meaning and purpose. User flows and expected actions also should be understandable.
In this acronym, robustness point. to the content's ability to function in a reliable way. This includes techs, languages, and devices the project considered when developing and designing.
In summary, the absence of any one of these principles will make a platform inaccessible.
How to Create Accessible Websites
Accessibility includes all the important elements of making a website or app. Yet, its unit should be both cohesive and complementary. As a result, this creates a functional product for everybody. It's important to understand that accessibility relies on collaboration. So, we'd like to unfold some edges to achieve results. As consequence, both experience and development solutions will remain accessible. We'll be relying on the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). This also works in conformance with WCAG standards.
It's important to have well-organized content on any site. This creates equal opportunities for every user. Because of this, easy navigation becomes a basis to improve user experiences. Also, it provides the structure for people to understand what you'd like to express. Moreover, it helps users to correctly interact with the site elements.
In this aspect, it's essential to create a clear and understandable presentation. Some elements include font sizes, colour combinations, and mobile-adapted presentations. Also, you should pay attention to the possibility for the user to zoom in and out on your content. Another highlight is to avoid flashing. time-based, or auto-played content. First, these can be harmful to photosensitive disorders. But, also, some users might need more time to read instructions, type, or complete tasks. Last, make your site follows a predictable and consistent pattern and interface. A consistent design can help users to navigate your site in a more easy and quick way.
The text comes crucial in web accessibility. Important info must be clear for users. Also, all texts should be readable and understandable in all formats. Further, its level of comprehension should reach the broadest audience possible. This must include those with learning disabilities and cognitive limitations. In this sense, ALT texts come helpful to bring context and purpose to visual content. Some examples include read-aloud text, size enlargements, or reading options for braille-adapted devices. Another option is to provide text transcripts and captions for audio content. This comes vital for those with audio or visual impairments. But, also, it offers a richer and more diversified experience for all. If it's on your possibilities, be sure to provide text transcripts and captions for audiovisual content. Also, you could enable sign language interpretation in videos. These can become invaluable to help overcome limiting factors.
It's not superfluous to show your commitment to web accessibility. This applies to users, potential and current customers, and even stakeholders. For instance, you can include an accessibility statement. These types of documents present the guidelines your site is following. For example, these can include a bullet list of accessibility issues taken care of. Also, it can express any exception it may apply. Moreover, you can add a form for users to express accessibility-related problems they might find.
Bonus: you can learn more about Front-End tips and tools for web accessibility here!
With this article, we'd like to introduce the concept of Web Accessibilty for those who don't know it. Also, to cover how much its features help all users when interacting with websites and apps. We truly hope the future of Web Accessibility reaches everyone. First, we like to think about the Internet as an information source. Thus, we perceive its accessibilty as a democratic tool. Yet, providing access to all users goes much further. Not only does it help with good SEO practices. Also, it improves user experience and quality assurance. And, another important thing: accessibilty has come as a legal right in many countries. Not only does this mean a step forward in legal terms, but it also includes the internet.
We hope this article has given you a starting point to brief or rebrief your projects. With a different approach, you'll be able to include all audiences with empathy.
Accessibility comes more important with each day. So, it's quite important for next-gen companies to take the lead. Luckily, there's always a chance to offer more accessible solutions! Our team can accompany you on each step of your process, so you can deliver results according to international standards. Let's talk to assure an accessible presence for your venture!