If you run a website, have you ever imagined how a blind person can access your information? When we talk about accessibility, it means that everyone, regardless of their condition, should be able to access a service. We've been doing it in the real world with ramps on buildings and paper form with larger phones.
So why is it so under-developed on the internet? Why is it not a core service of everyone designing websites? And why is there so few digital agencies focusing on getting things right?
When it comes to accessibility, let's explore this today and why you should always consider it and how you can get started.
Hey, welcome to this new edition of Digital Blitz, your short brief on everything UX, Tech and Compliance. I'm Sylvain Reiter and I'm here to help you succeed in digital by delivering better experiences for your team and your customers.
Why do we need accessibility?
When I ask you to make your website more accessible, you're probably thinking about someone with a disability and it's a valid point. More than a fifth of the population is affected with auditory, cognitive, motor, neurological, speech or visual impairments. We speak so much about user experience and making things easy to use, but we often forget about the more extreme cases and the experience of blind users visiting a website, for example.
You also need to consider a temporary disability. You might have broken your arm, or situational like having a slow internet connection. So whatever type of accessibility need one might have, it is very critical for everyone, if you're planning, designing, or running a website, to consider it as a core pillar of each project and to implement good accessibility on the internet.
Accessibility is a team effort
It really needs to be planned from the beginning and throughout the process. It's pretty impossible to retrofit it at the end. This topic goes well with my channel's mission because it encompasses the whole process of designing and building products and digital solutions to make the internet a better place. It really is everyone's job!
Starting from the user experience and the usability in designing the features, the layout of the elements, the font size or colour contrast, the spacing of the elements, the way you show the error messages... You need to put a big focus on the forms and navigation elements too. Because one of the hidden benefits is that when you apply all those accessibility principles, it will also benefit your SEO and protect your brand experience overall.
It continues with the technology, obviously the way you code the HTML or apply extra tags for screen readers. It started with the alt-tags to describe the images or using captions on tables and allowing keyboard navigation. It all makes your code more compatible with assistive technologies for the blind or hearing impaired, for example. It can get tricky with videos or widgets like calendar picker, but it's really important.
All of that is wrapped into compliance because it's the law: the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA in the US, the Equality Act in the UK and the Web and Mobile Accessibility Directive in Europe. You just don't have a choice anymore! Mostly in the public sector, but even now in the private corporation and private sectors, you just cannot take shortcuts anymore, nor create barriers for people with accessibility needs. On top of the potential fines, you really never want to have a bad PR campaign against your inaccessible website, don't you?
WCAG - Levels of compliance
To help define those standards. The Web Content Accessibility Guideline or WCAG was created in 2008 and it defines three levels of compliance: A, AA and AAA. We tend to aim for AA compliance because it covers most of the common barriers for disabled people.
We can use online tools to validate the level of compliance, and do more in-depth testing with actual users with special needs. Also with experts, external experts to ensure that our accessibility statement and platform are very accurate and optimised.
It is very important for the web to be accessible to everyone in order to provide equal access and equal opportunities to people with disabilities.
You can be the Hero
So next time you are part of a stand-up or you have to write a brief or a new website features, please always keep accessibility in the back of your mind and raise it with your team to make sure it's implemented.
We are members of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals and get trained at laboratories like the RNIB in the UK. So if you need support to embed accessibility in your next digital project or need to upgrade your existing systems, just get in touch. Don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel and follow me on Twitter to keep learning with me and grow your career in digital.
Until next time, stay safe and see you soon.