If you haven’t yet, you will likely be hearing more and more about web accessibility. Partially due to a rise in the number of web accessibility lawsuits and changes in compliance, companies are realizing the importance of providing equal access and equal opportunity to all of their customers. In this post we will be outlining what web accessibility means, why it’s important, and how to implement it. As a quick executive summary, now is the best time to update your website to be accessible to everyone.
What is Web Accessibility?
An accessible website is designed and developed to be used by all people, including those with disabilities. This may include physical, auditory, visual or speech disabilities, among others. To better standardize, Web accessibility standards have been developed by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The current guidelines are WCAG 2.0.
WCAG includes 4 principles of accessibility:
- Perceivable – The content must be consumable in different ways, i.e. closed caption videos.
- Operable – All interface components and navigation need to be operable, i.e. keyboard navigation.
- Understandable – The user must be able to understand how the site functions.
- Robust – Can assistive technologies understand the site? i.e. screen readers.
WCAG 2.0 also includes 3 levels of accessibility; A, AA and AAA.
- Level A is the minimum requirement and addresses the most basic web accessibility features.
- Level AA addresses the most common barriers.
- Level AAA is the gold standard and satisfies the highest level of accessibility.
Common Accessibility Mistakes
Some common accessibility mistakes include:
- Site navigation – Needs to be navigable using the keyboard which often means the “tab” is used to navigate the different sections of the site.
- Site structure – Needs to be intuitive for screen readers.
- Text – Users need to be able to increase or decrease the text size. Text also needs to have sufficient size and contrast to be readable across a range of devices. Colors should never convey meaning.
- Images – Should be supported with text and should never be used to convey important information.
- Links – Need to be clear, readable and distinct.
- Multimedia – Video and audio files need to be made accessible using closed captioning or text versions.
- Forms – Need to be easily navigable, clear and readable.
Recent Advancements in Accessibility and What This Means For You
In the past few years the number of web accessibility lawsuits has been on the rise. While the ADA has clear-cut standards for physical spaces, the online standards are not clearly defined. Therefore, most plaintiffs making the case for websites to be held to the same ADA standards are winning in court, resulting in unpredictable litigation.
In most cases, companies don’t realize this is an issue or don’t realize it can affect them until they receive a demand letter. It can affect any company, private or public, small or large. That’s why it’s best to get ahead of it before needing to scramble to become compliant, which can be both time and cost intensive.
Becoming ADA Compliant
Implementing accessibility to your website does require a developer with knowledge of accessibility standards, testing tools and implementation. Whether this is completed in-house or through a web development agency, steps need to be taken to make sure extensive testing is completed and a maintenance plan is setup to ensure the site remains compliant despite added features and content.