What is Accessibility?

Accessibility means that all websites, tools and technologies are designed and developed to be used by everyone, including individuals with a variety of disabilities. Everyone should have the ability to understand, navigate and interact with a website and contribute to the web, including by the use of assistive technologies.

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

SIR TIM BERNERS-LEE, INVENTOR OF THE WORLD WIDE WEB

Examples of disabilities that web accessibility supports are:

  • Auditory
  • Cognitive
  • Neurological
  • Physical
  • Speech
  • Visual

Web accessibility also benefits users on different devices; older people with changing abilities from age; temporary disabilities like a broken arm; situational disabilities (like bright sunlight or an environment where they cannot listen to audio); and users who have a slow internet connection.

Web accessibility is required by law in many situations.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines & Section 508


Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1)

The WCAG standards are developed and maintained by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium, the main international standards organization for the Internet.

  • WCAG Guidelines are based on the 4 principles of accessibility: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust
  • WCAG has three levels of compliance: A, AA, AAA (from least to most stringent)
    • Each level builds on the previous level
    • The lowest tier (A) impacts the largest proportion of people

 

Section 508

508 is shorthand for Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that requires federal government websites and applications to be safe and accessible for people with disabilities.

508 Compliance is equivalent to WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines (note that it's the older version!) – so they represent a subset of the current accessibility guidelines. They are mandatory to follow for government websites.

In this checklist, we have highlighted where 508 Compliance comes into play but including a 508 tag. Note that this checklist does not include an exhaustive list of 508 Compliance standards, which you can find here.

 

508 encompasses A and AA compliance

The Benefits of an Accessible Website

Studies show that accessible websites:

  • Have better search results
  • Reach a larger audience
  • Have better usability
  • Are SEO friendly
  • Have faster download times
  • Encourage good coding practices
  • Promote positive brand experiences
  • Leads to customer loyalty and increased ROI

While inaccessible websites lead to:

  • Reduced user retention
  • Negative brand experience
  • Legal action - lawsuits stemming from increasing laws and policies to protect the rights of people with disabilities

Providing an equal experience for everyone is also just the right thing to do.

Accessibility Best Practices

There are many ways to include accessibility best practices into every department of your business. Here are a few suggestions to get you started so you can have a more accessible brand and web presence:

Content Inclusivity

  • Avoid confusing jargon and idioms
  • Be clear and concise with button and link text
    • Avoid vague language like “Click here”; give the user a clear description for what is about to happen

Visual Design

  • Establish hierarchy and order
  • Use legible fonts and don't diminish their legibility
  • Ensure color contrasts pass WCAG 2.0 minimum
  • Use more than color to signify importance or action
  • Don't hide or diminish focus states
  • Avoid flashing and/or jarring animations or color schemes
  • Present form fields in a single column format
  • Consider how layout will scale with increased zoom

Mobile

  • Make sure users can reach primary actions using right or left thumbs
  • Make sure touch targets are at a sufficient pixel size
  • Make sure touch target spacing is sufficiently apart

Media

  • Ensure Alt-Text is descriptive
  • Ensure video has closed-captions
  • Consider relative size of motion to viewport
  • Allow control of sliders and carousels
  • Prevent auto-play

Code Compliance

  • Ensure HTML is semantic
  • Use ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) roles and attributes where possible

For further reading

"The web was meant to be an equalizer, a level playing field for everyone. Ensuring accessibility on the web is everyone’s responsibility."

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Laura Swartz LookThink

Free Website Accessibility Audit

Learn how to make your website more accessible and inclusive with LookThink's Self-Guided step-by-step audit. This self-guided audit will help you figure out where you can make your website more accessible