Website Accessibility, Digital Hitmen.

There is no question about the importance of accessibility. Regardless of the nature of the physical or cognitive issues that create difficulties, all people have a right, under Australian law, to equal access.

However, have you ever thought about accessibility for websites? An international body called the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is responsible for maintaining global standards for the Internet. W3C created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to ensure that websites conform to the standards set out by the W3C.

If you are like many people, the idea of accessible web usage is not at the forefront of your mind.

In this post, you’ll learn what website accessibility is, why it is important, and how to improve the accessibility for all your website’s users.

 

 

What Is Website Accessibility?

Technically, website accessibility is an offshoot of User Experience (UX) because websites that are accessible allow everyone to benefit from their existence, and it is easy for most anyone to use.

Websites optimised for accessibility have removed barriers preventing someone with a physical or cognitive disability from using the website fully.

 

Does Australian Law Require Website Accessibility?

Yes, the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 protects people from being discriminated against based on physical or cognitive impairments. This applies to the private and public sectors. Other subsequent laws that govern web access include,

  • Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy – Set in motion the beginning stages of a national transition towards website accessibility
  • The Digital Service Standard – The Digital Service Standard states that “service must be accessible and inclusive to all users regardless of their ability and environment.”
  • Accessibility Requirements for ICT Products and Services – AS EN 301 549:2020 was adopted by Standards Australia. The standard ensures the minimum requirements for accessibility of ICT.

Even with the standards in place, the group WebAIM found that significant problems with compliance still exist. WebAIM’s annual survey of the top one-million websites discovered 97.4 per cent had homepages that failed to comply with the accessibility requirements.

The stunningly high percentage of non-compliance is down from the 98.1 per cent non-compliant sites surveyed in 2020.

 

What is Necessary to be Compliant with the Standards?

The WCAG addresses areas of web content. UX and other designers must apply the WCAG standards to their work. The levels of compliance are rated as follows,

  • Level A – Signifies the minimum level of accessibility compliance. Meeting this level is a basic requirement for some groups to be able to use web documents.
  • Level AA – Signifies that some of the accessibility compliance requirements are met. At this level, many significant barriers to web accessibility are gone.
  • Level AAA – The level is the highest level of accessibility compliance. Websites with this designation have few if any barriers to use.

 

Why Does Website Accessibility Matter?

The importance of website accessibility is generally two-pronged.

  1. The idea is that all people deserve the same opportunities regardless of any limitations. In a world that is digital, being able to connect to the online world is not a privilege. It is a necessity. There are numerous benefits for individuals with limitations online including,
    • Social inclusion
    • Access to products
    • Access to services
    • Access to information
  2. Building accessible websites is also a practice that is beneficial for businesses. When more people can access your website, your chance to gain customers increases. An inclusive company is viewed positively, and you can also protect yourself from legal problems that come with inaccessibility.

Another benefit that surprises some business owners is the fact that when you make all of the necessary accessibility adjustments, you are also optimising your website. The changes that improve accessibility also improve UX.

 

Understanding the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

The WCAG is vital for companies working on achieving website accessibility and those who seek to maintain accessibility. The basis of the WCAG is four principles. Each principle must be taken into account.

 

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

 

  1. Perceivable – A user must be able to get a feeling for the website content using one or more of their senses.
  2. Operable – The user interface must be controllable through multiple avenues. (Examples: voice command, keyboard, mouse).
  3. Understandable – Users must be able to grasp the website content in more than one way.
  4. Robust – The website content must be useable to a variety of user agents.

 

Examples of Properly Executed Accessible Websites

It is easy to read about creating an accessible website but seeing is believing. Here are three examples of Australian sites that meet or exceed the required standards. These sites are proof that an accessible design can be beautiful and functional.

  • Study Melbourne: Student Life –  An example of function and form blending beautifully, Study Melbourne: Student Life allows visitors a virtual experience of life in Melbourne. Aside from incredible imagery, the sounds of the city round out the experience. The site is fully accessible and easy to control with a mouse or keyboard.

 

Melbourne Student Life Homepage

 

  • Internetrix – The digital accessibility company created a look to set the standard in their industry. Internetrix scaled back a busy design. Next, they added fresh colours and pages that are easy to get through. The result is a sharp and modern website that is simple to navigate and understand.

 

Internetrix Homepage

 

  • My Emergency Doctor –  A telehealth site, My Emergency Doctor works with a significant number of patients with a variety of physical and mental challenges. This is why an accessible and responsive website is crucial. The website adheres to the standards of WCAG and is purposefully easy to manage.

 

My Emergency Doctor Homepage

 

Five Web Design Tips to Improve Accessibility

Sometimes designers focus on making brilliant websites but may not know the best ways to make their sites more inclusive. Here are five tips for enhancing accessibility for your websites.

  1. Provide a sufficient amount of contrast between background and text. Make sure that your luminance contrast ratio is great enough for viewers with all ranges of eyesight.
  2. Do not use just colour to convey information. Phrases like “required fields are in red” or “please click the green box” do not help those with impaired vision. Instead, use symbols along with colours “required fields are in red with an * symbol” or “please click the green box marked submit” are easier to understand.
  3. Give users immediate feedback. This helps ALL users, not only those with accessibility issues. If there is an error, make it obvious. The tiny triangle with an exclamation mark is not enough. Phrases like “password error” are much more helpful and help avoid frustration.
  4. Make your designs to fit different viewport sizes.
  5. Offer image alternatives to your site. Adding audio elements, links to adjustable size transcripts and simplified descriptions for complex graphs are quite helpful.

 

An Inclusive Experience for Everyone

As you can see, website accessibility is a crucial element in web design. Not just because it is mandated, but because all people should have equal access to the Internet.

If your business lacks the time or the personnel to achieve and maintain web accessibility, consider partnering with experts who have years of experience helping to ensure website accessibility. Contact us to learn more about how we can create an optimal user experience for all of your website visitors.

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