What Is Web Content Accessibility?
Web content accessibility refers to making website usable to people with all different types of abilities and disabilities. The W3C has set guidelines for how to meet accessibility standards with three levels for web content level: A, AA, AAA.
Why is it important?
While things are improving, many websites still fail to meet basic accessibility criteria. There are a number of reasons to ensure your website meets at least the minimum standard (Level A) of accessibility. Firstly it is a legal requirement in many countries, in the UK if your service is not accessible online you may be in breach of the Equality Act 2010. Another reason is to be ethical, demonstrating to your visitors you are inclusive. Finally meeting accessibility standards can put you ahead of the competition. This article by Abilitynet highlights how even making minor improvements can increase customer sales.
Who Does It Affect?
Understanding different user types and their requirements are key to developing any service or product. Ensuring your site meets accessibility standards is no different and understanding this is about more than just screen readers is critical. So what are the main areas to consider? The BBC has a number of how-to guides that can help you to understand some different user abilities and perspectives such as those who are partially sighted or struggle with difficult words. To go even further, interviewing users and observing their browsing techniques can highlight particular points that need design improvements.
How To Become More Accessible
While a large part of meeting accessibility standard is writing good code, all aspects need to be understood as some factors can affect the work visual designers and copywriters do. For example, why colour contrast and text size can be important, the language used and even how complex the layout is to navigate. Of course this is not to say everyone needs to be an expert, but to at least understand different user perspectives so website accessibility can be continuously maintained.
As with all technology, assistive devices are constantly evolving, but even more importantly many are being mothballed with people as that’s what they’re comfortable and confident using. This makes the maintenance workload infinite and not all organisations have the budget to facilitate constant reviews and testing. However, providing an accessibility page with the ability for users to submit problems can be a way of focusing improvement efforts. The person responsible for that email address should be the person that leads digital accessibility efforts in an organisation working with others to resolve issues.
Run you website homepage through tenon.io and see what kind of errors you might be occurring.
The A11Y project has a number of useful articles on how to make simple improvements.
GOV.UK on making a service accessible
UX Brighton has a video on how GOV.UK web accessibility