What’s web accessibility and why is it important?
Technology has turned into a vital part of the human experience – offering new possibilities to enhance our day to day. According to Google, there are around 7.8 billion people in the entire world, and 5.16 billion of them use the internet. That means, 64% percent of the global population are online.
From the world’s population, there are about 1.3 billion people living with a disability. This includes physical, as well as cognitive and neurological disabilities. Some disabilities make consuming specific content harder and may require people to use assistive technologies in their everyday life. Everyone should be able to use the internet and have a good web experience regardless of age and physical or mental capabilities.
What is web accessibility?
Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the web. It involves following certain design principles which ensure people who experience difficulties or limitations have an equitable experience. Accessibility should be built into the web development and design process, rather than trying to retrofit it after the fact.
Designing with accessibility in mind as a standard practice makes digital experiences usable for everyone. For example, subtitles help people who are hard of hearing enjoy a TV show, but also helps anyone when they can’t have the volume up too loud. Accessibility design in the real world does the same thing, like curb cuts that gradually lower the curb at crosswalks can help someone in a wheelchair cross the street, but also can help a parent walking with a stroller.
So, who’s in charge of web accessibility standards?
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) with the purpose of setting a series of internationally shared guidelines leading the standards of web content accessibility to make websites, devices, and content accessible to users with disabilities.
WCAG’s success criteria are categorized into three levels: A, AA, and AAA.
Level A: This covers the most basic requirements of accessibility. Most websites pass, however, if your site fails to meet this level of standards, it will result in penalties and a completely inaccessible website.
Level AA: At Crowley Webb, this is the level of accessibility we strive to adhere to for all our websites. It’s the level most websites are legally required to meet and ensures the biggest barriers of accessibility are removed.
Level AAA: This is the highest level of accessibility under the WCAG and the most difficult to achieve. While this level is a desirable goal, it’s not the most necessary in some cases.
Is web accessibility a legal requirement?
Short answer, yes! Many countries have web accessibility legislation in place, either referring to the WCAG or with standards that are built upon the WCAG.
Four principles of accessibility.
The principles of web accessibility are the foundations of content produced for the web and creates an equitable experience for everyone. These principles are known as POUR, an acronym that describes functional accessibility:
Users must be able to perceive the information being presented (it can’t be invisible to all of their senses).
Example: Color contrast of text with the background it is on
Users must be able to operate the interface (the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform).
Example: Being able to use a keyboard to navigate a website if needed
Information and the operation of user interface cannot be beyond the user’s understanding.
Example: Forms having obvious requirements and labels
Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
Example: Alternative text descriptions for images in case they do not load, or the user cannot see them
A final thought.
Just remember, web accessibility is within your reach! All it takes is some commitment to learning the common issues and their solutions. A good rule of thumb is to never leave accessibility planning as the last project in designing a website. Rather, accessibility should be incorporated from the very beginning of the site planning and creation and to every project that follows.
At Crowley Webb, we’re passionate about web accessibility. If you’re interested in learning more about our UX team’s capabilities, let’s chat.