In today's digital age, the internet has become an integral part of our lives. It has opened up a world of opportunities and has made information easily accessible. However, not everyone can access the web in the same way. Web accessibility refers to designing websites and applications that people with disabilities can also use.
In this blog, we'll look at what web accessibility is, why it's important, the web accessibility standards, and how to make your website accessible.
Web Accessibility Topics covered:
- What is Web Accessibility?
- Why is Web Accessibility Important?
- Web Accessibility Standards including the UK Websites and Mobile Applications Accessibility Regulations (WMAR) 2018 Act and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
- How to Make Your Website Accessible
What is Web Accessibility?
We have all encountered situations where we get frustrated by a website that takes forever to load, struggle to read poorly-chosen fonts, or become overwhelmed while trying to navigate through a webpage that needs to be mobile-friendly. Though these issues may be an annoyance to some, for individuals with disabilities, it can severely limit their ability to use the internet.
Web accessibility means that websites and web-based applications are designed and developed so that everyone can access and use them, regardless of their physical, sensory, or cognitive abilities. This includes people with disabilities such as blindness or a visual impairment, deafness or hearing impairment, mobility impairment, and cognitive impairment.
A report by WebAIM showed the biggest issues in 2022, where 83.6% of people struggled to read low-contrast text and 58.2% found missing alternative text for images. These would require small changes to make a massive impact on those with disabilities.
Why is Web Accessibility Important?
Having a website that is accessible is important because it ensures that everyone, including people with disabilities, can have proper access and use the internet. People with disabilities face numerous barriers when accessing the web, preventing them from accessing important information, services, and products.
By making websites and applications accessible, businesses and organisations can ensure that everyone can have the freedom to access their content, products, and services, regardless of their abilities.
Furthermore, web accessibility is not just about meeting legal requirements or avoiding lawsuits. It is about creating a more inclusive and equitable society where everyone has the same opportunities to access and participate in the digital world.
Web Accessibility Standards
There are several web accessibility standards that website designers and developers can follow to ensure that their websites are accessible.
Websites and Mobile Applications Accessibility Regulations (WMAR) 2018 Act
The UK government introduced the Websites and Mobile Applications Accessibility Regulations (WMAR) act in 2018. The act mandates public sector websites and mobile applications to be accessible to people with disabilities, such as those who are deaf, blind, or physically disabled.
To comply with the regulations, public sector organisations must also publish an accessibility statement on their websites, which outlines the accessibility status of their site and identifies areas that may not meet the accessibility standards. It is important that the statement is easy to understand and kept up-to-date as the website or app evolves.
Companies that provide services to the public sector should ensure their website and mobile app are accessible to comply with the regulations. It is also good practice for companies to design websites and mobile apps with accessibility in mind, as it can benefit all users and mitigate potential legal issues related to discrimination.
In summary, the WMAR act emphasises the significance of accessibility in website and mobile app design, and enforces accountability for public sector organisations in the UK to provide accessible services to all users, irrespective of their disabilities.
WCAG - Web Content Accessibility GuidelinesThe most well-known standard is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The WCAG provides a set of guidelines for creating accessible websites, covering areas such as perceivability, operability, and understandability.
POUR, an acronym that stands for Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust outlines the fundamental principles of web accessibility that are essential for creating web content that all individuals can use. These principles serve as the basis for ensuring functional accessibility for anyone who wants to access and utilise the web.
- Perceivable - It refers to the presentation of information and user interface elements in a way that can be detected by the senses, leaving nothing hidden. Although perceivability is mainly associated with visual elements for the majority of web users, individuals who are unable to see rely on touch and sound to perceive information and navigate web content.
- Operable - For an interface to be considered operable, interactive elements such as controls, buttons, and navigation must be functional and accessible to users. This requires users first to identify the interactive elements and, for most individuals, operate them by physically clicking, tapping, swiping, or scrolling. However, for those unable to interact in these ways, alternative methods such as voice commands or assistive devices like head wands and eye trackers must be available.
- Understandable - In essence, technology tries to exhibit clarity and consistency in both its presentation and format, featuring predictable usage patterns and designs. End-users should have no difficulty in grasping the significance and intent of the information shown through the content, as well as in discerning the flow of user interaction and operation of the interface.
- Robust - This refers to the capability of content to function consistently and dependably across a diverse range of technologies, including those that are designed as assistive devices.
How to Make Your Website AccessibleHere are some tips on how to make your website accessible:
- Use clear and simple language that is easy to read and understand.
- Provide alternative text for images - Alternative text (alt text) is a brief description of an image that is read by screen readers. Providing alt text for images ensures that people with visual impairments can access the information conveyed by images.
- Use good colour contrast - Use good colour contrast between the text and background to ensure the text is easy to read. WCAG recommends a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text.
- Make sure your website is keyboard accessible - Ensure that your website can be navigated using only a keyboard, as some people with disabilities may not be able to use a mouse.
- Provide captions and transcripts for videos - Captions and transcripts make videos accessible to people with hearing impairments.
- Test your website for accessibility - Use accessibility tools and conduct user testing to ensure that your website is accessible to people with disabilities.
Web accessibility is essential to creating a more inclusive and equitable society. By making websites and applications accessible, businesses and organisations can ensure that everyone, including people with disabilities, can access their content, products, and services. Following web accessibility standards and implementing accessibility features can help ensure your website is accessible to everyone.
To learn more about web accessibility and stay up-to-date with the latest digital insights, visit our blog.