Much like a city, the Internet is made up of users with different abilities and contexts, all trying to get around. The aim of web accessibility is to make sure everyone can access information and services online. Your website's accessibility is fast becoming a legal requirement and it is worth your time and attention to get right.
There are international standards for web accessibility that, like building codes, consider how diverse users interact with websites. Think about how ramps give access to buildings, or how crosswalk audio cues help people safely get where they're going. Your site's design, development and content contribute to accessibility in different ways.
Who does it help? Everyone.
It's easy to think that accessibility only affects a small percentage of people, when in fact it helps everyone in your audience. A few examples of web accessibility in action:
- Design. Let's say that your website has strong colour contrast that meets accessibility standards. People with low vision, people who are colour blind, and people squinting at their phone screens on a sunny day all benefit from better readability.
- Development. Or, for instance, your website is built so that it's easy to navigate by keyboard, as well as mouse. You have created a better user experience for anyone whose arm was amputated, whose hands are getting shakier as they get older, or who needs to hold their baby while they look at your site.
- Content. Or, for example, your website is written in plain language with short, descriptive headings and clear calls to action. Someone with low digital literacy or English fluency, someone using a screen reading tool, and someone scanning for information quickly on a busy day will find your site easy to use.
We all experience circumstances that make websites challenging or impossible to navigate. When that's the case, most people will click away from an inaccessible site. Paying attention to web accessibility helps you reach everyone in your audience and keep them engaged.
How do you do it? Constant vigilance.
Accessibility takes into account all aspects of your website. The legal requirements can be intimidating, complex and time-consuming, to say the least. There are 61 success criteria to meet WCAG 2.0 standards! Here are a few popular options to help ensure your website meets accessibility standards:
- Automated website scanners can be a useful starting place (they do not catch everything, but can point out many accessibility errors, as well as misspellings and broken links).
- Accessibility experts can make compliance easy with a complete website audit, recommendations and help implementing changes (while this costs more, it is comprehensive and you benefit from efficiency and depth of experience).
- If your organization has the bandwidth, one person on your technical team can educate themselves and become an in-house accessibility champion.
Once your website meets accessibility standards, the key is constant vigilance. It's easy to maintain accessibility if you keep it top of mind whenever your team makes content edits, adds images, or updates your website going forward. To get started, ask yourself these five questions for accessible website content.
If you want to find out if your current website meets legal requirements, know what you need to change but want help changing it, or need a hand to develop a complete, easy-to-follow accessibility guide for your organization's content editors, talk with our team of experts.
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