Information is a human right. So, when discussing "accessibility," we must refer to all people. In this sense, Web Accessibility encompasses content, design, and tools everyone can enjoy. This concept is a response to the principle of equality. In this case, web equality aims for the right to fair Internet access. You might have experienced this at least once in your life. There are many examples of non-friendly pages with poor design or loading slowness. If this can be frustrating, how do you think it suits people with different disabilities? Without further ado, we'd like to introduce you to Web Accessibility.
What is Web Accessibility?
Web Accessibility describes tools and techs for people with disabilities in digital ecosystems. It arises from the idea that everyone should be able to access and use websites and apps. The concept includes people with limited use of both physical and intellectual capacities. Also, it considers the population with different vision or hearing issues. Integration is key to achieving better UX. As a result, tech building keeps working to establish accessibility. Also, devs must remind it to avoid user exclusion. Accessibility is a first-stage need for any product or development project. From the start, teams must acknowledge the place that accessibility will have. Any product’s goal should be massive access. Thus, if you want more reach, accessibility shouldn't be an added afterthought.
Why is Web Accessibility Important?
In any project, we aim to reach everyone within our audience. This goal comes across regardless of abilities or circumstances. A WHO study concludes that there are over one billion people with disabilities worldwide. That's nearly 15 % of the global population! The number includes physical disabilities, as well as cognitive and neurological ones. These rates seem only set to increase due to aging and an increase in health difficulties.
Yet, when discussing accessibility, we aim to include permanent disabilities. Let's put, as an example, the sense of sight. A blind person can carry a permanent disability, yes. But cataracts can be temporary, and traffic accident sequels can be situational disabilities. So, we must consider the number of scenarios to guarantee full accessibility. In the end, it's all about inclusion. All people should be able to access information in the same ways and manners. Luckily, there are available techs focused on reducing or removing these barriers. These ensure people of all ages and capacities have good experiences on the internet.
Despise creating more inclusive spaces, accessibility strategies can be beneficial for businesses. After all, it's key to Design and Development to master almost every product element. It encompasses mobile-friendliness, device independence, multi-modal interaction, usability, SEO, and more. So, this perspective can achieve better search results, reduced costs, and increased reach. Moreover, it shows the venture's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Accessible platforms don't only include people with disabilities. They can improve the User Experience for all users of your site!
What are Accessibility Standards?
Designers and Developers must acknowledge they're not always their projects' final users. Because of the latter, they need to recognize accessibility needs. These needs include having an open-minded setup about different potential users. And as we said, it applies from the first encounter with any project.
That's why the Accessibility Standards arose. These also create specific followable guidelines to keep every site on the same page. The first of them came from Dr. Cynthia Waddel in 1995. Her standard became a critical starting point for other well-known guidelines. Yet, she's also known for the accessibility testing software Cynthia Says. Among its rules, it included alternative texts for images. Since then, many other guidelines have emerged. Also, different tools have appeared to create more accessible interactions over the internet. These features include screen readers like VoiceOver or NVDA. Nowadays, they're well-used among people with blindness or low vision.
Later, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) made Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Its shared rules aim to set protocols for web content accessibility within its goals. Not only does The WCAG regularizes basic info, like texts, images, and sounds. It also embraces codes and markups that define a platform's structure. Currently, there are two versions of WCAG: WCAG 2.0 and 2.1. The first, WCAG 2.0, from 2008, became an ISO standard in 2012. Later, WCAG 2.1 appeared in 2018. Despise the extra criteria, it still complies with all 2.0's version requirements. In summary, the WCAG comes as the foundation of web accessibility legislation.
This criterion has three levels of conformance: A, AA, and AAA. Level A covers the basic requirements of accessibility. Also, it falls as the slightest degree to meet. Any failure to comfort this level will result in a completely inaccessible platform. The next level addresses common barriers for people with disabilities. Nowadays, level AA is the highest level required by most websites. That's because it removes the greatest accessibility difficulties. The latter, level AAA, is the highest achievable level under WCAG. And, in consequence, it's the most desirable to achieve. That means, of course, it's the most difficult to reach for most sites.
What is the ADA Compliance?
Under President George H.W. Bush, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) took effect in 1990. Nowadays, it's one of America's moth comprehensive laws on civil legislation. It prohibits discrimination while guaranteeing the same opportunities for people with disabilities. Its purpose is to assure participation in the mainstream of American life. This inclusiveness encloses civil areas like employment and products and services acquisition. Also, it encompasses involvement in State and local government programs and services.
The ADA is part of the "equal opportunity" laws. This set of statutes got modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or origin. In 2010, the Department of Justice released new guidelines for public organizations. These include all disabled people that use computers and smart devices. According to Forbes, there have been increases in website accessibility lawsuits. In those cases, plaintiffs cannot access websites because of incompatible assistive technologies.
In such cases, plaintiffs usually cite ADA Title III violations. This title stipulates that no individual shall receive disability-based discrimination. Further, it ensures complete and equal access to goods, services, facilities, and accommodations. (42 U.S.C. § 12182(a)). A Plaintiff in a Title III ADA claim must prove three elements to prevail.
1. Plaintiff's disability lies within the meaning of the ADA.
2. Defendant owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation.
3. Defendant denied Plaintiff public accommodation due to their disability.
What are the Four Principles of Accessibility?
All previous standards, rules, and guidance above may be confusing. Where should you start when creating a more accessible platform? When faced with this question, the four principles of web accessibility are helpful. These concepts are under the POUR acronym.
To most users, the concept of perceivable got connections with visual elements. This means that user interfaces must rely on empirical manners. Consequently, no relevant information must remain undetectable or invisible.
This principle applies to users' navigation through a site. For instance, operability includes buttons, controls, and blank spaces. All these must be operable. Often, operable sites encompass things like clicking, tapping, swiping, or rolling. Within accessibility, people with all conditions should be able to perform these actions.
Sites and apps need to be clear and consistent in form and presentation. Here, the goal is for no one to have any comprehension issues whit the given info. These issues encompass its meaning and purpose. Thus, user flows and expected actions should be understandable.
Here, robustness points to the content's ability to function reliably. It encloses the techs, languages, and devices considered when developing and designing.
How to Create Accessible Websites?
Accessibility includes all the crucial elements of making a website or app. Yet, its unit should be both cohesive and complementary. As a result, this creates a functional product for everybody. It's important to understand that accessibility relies on collaboration. Yet, we'd like to unfold some edges to achieve results. As a consequence, both experience and development solutions will remain accessible. We'll be relying on the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). The WAI also works in compliance with WCAG standards.
Well-organized content on any site is vital to equal access for all users. Because of this, easy navigation becomes a basis for improving user experiences. Also, it provides the structure for people to understand what you'd like to express. Moreover, it helps users to interact with the site elements correctly.
Creating a clear and understandable presentation is essential. Some elements include font sizes, color combinations, and mobile-adapted presentations. Also, you should pay attention to the possibility for the user to zoom in and out on your content. Another highlight is to avoid flashing time-based or auto-played content. First, these can be harmful to photosensitive disorders. But, also, some users might need more time to read instructions, type, or complete tasks. Last, make your site follows a predictable and consistent pattern and interface. A consistent design helps users navigate your site more easily and quicker.
Text is crucial in web accessibility, so relevant info must be precise for all users. All texts should be readable and understandable to reach the broadest audience possible. These audiences include those with learning disabilities and cognitive limitations. Due to the prior, ALT texts help bring context and purpose to visual content. ALT text includes read-aloud text, size enlargements, or reading options for braille-adapted devices. Also, text transcripts and audio captions are vital for those with audiovisual impairments. But it also offers a richer and more diversified experience for all. Provide text transcripts and captions for audiovisual content if it's on your possibilities! Also, you could enable sign language interpretation in videos. These can become invaluable to help overcome limiting factors.
While it may seem excessive, showing your commitment to web accessibility is relevant. For instance, you can include an accessibility statement. These types of documents present the guidelines your site is following. It can consist of a bullet list of accessibility issues taken care of. Further, you can add a form for users to express accessibility-related problems. This extra info applies to users, potential customers, and even stakeholders.
With this article, we aimed to introduce the concept of Web Accessibility. Also, we wanted to cover how much its features help all users when interacting with sites and apps. We genuinely expect the future of Web Accessibility reaches everyone! First, we like to think about the internet as an information source. Thus, we perceive its accessibility as a democratic tool. Yet, providing access to all users goes much further. Not only does it help with good SEO practices. Also, it improves user experience and quality assurance. Yet, there's another highlight: accessibility is a legal right in many countries. Not only does this mean a step forward in legal terms, but it also includes the internet. We hope this article has given you a starting point to brief or rebrief your projects!