A Guide to Web Accessibility: Everything You Need to Know
The Internet is an integral part of everyone’s lives, providing information services at our fingertips. However, not everyone experiences the web in the same way. People with disabilities face barriers to accessing this digital landscape.
Around 1.3 billion people are experiencing significant disability, or we can see they represent 16% of the world’s population. This is where the concept of web accessibility comes in.
Every user who visits the website has the right to have a seamless user experience, no matter their abilities. However, it’s also important to increase the number of users as search engines know whether your website is accessible or not, and it might affect rankings, too. Besides that, there could be legal complications as in a few countries, it’s law.
In this article, we will dive into each detail of web accessibility, what it is, and how you can meet its requirements so that you can create a website that everyone can access.
Let’s start exploring.
What is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility is the practice of developing and designing websites and web applications in a way that ensures they can be accessed by all individuals, including those with disabilities.
It aims to remove barriers that restrict people with visual, auditory, motor, cognitive, or other impairments from using digital content. They should have equal opportunities to access information, transact, and engage with digital services.
Although it’s often assumed that accessibility is only about people with disabilities, as a non-disabled person, some situations can affect how you access the website.
Website accessibility encourages using inclusive design, integrated technology, and software.
Why is Web Accessibility Important?
Web accessibility is important because it allows all individuals, regardless of their disabilities, to access and use digital content on the Internet.
It promotes inclusivity, allowing everyone an equal chance to browse websites, access information, and engage in online activities. Also, it’s important for legal compliance as many countries require accessibility web design to prevent discrimination.
Moreover, integrating web accessibility into your marketing strategy amplifies these benefits further by expanding the website’s potential audience, boosting search engine rankings, and fostering a positive brand image. Consider consulting with a website marketing agency to ensure your website is accessible and gets the attention it deserves.
In the end, embracing web accessibility is one of the smart business decisions. But what are some common disabilities that affect web accessibility?
Let’s look at different disabilities that affect access to your site and their accessibility solutions:
Visual Impairment: It includes blindness, low vision, and color blindness. People with these disabilities use screen magnifying software or rely on screen readers to read text aloud and describe images on the web.
Hearing Impairment: It involves varied degrees of hearing loss, from low to extreme. The audio content should include a transcript or subtitles to make it easier to understand website content.
Motor Impairment: People with limited fine motor control face issues using mouse or trackpads, and they rely on their keyboards. So, they need customized devices, such as head pointers, speech recognition, or mouth sticks.
Cognitive Impairment: For people with learning disabilities, use consistent layout and navigation, easy language, and help them with video content.
Keep in mind that it’s not about disabled people only but also about people having temporary disabilities or situational accessibility problems. For example, people might have difficulty hearing in a crowded area.
Now, let’s discover what are common accessibility issues that might arise while a person is trying to access your product or service.
Common Website Accessibility Issues
Website accessibility issues can cause hindrances to users with disabilities. Here are a few common accessibility issues to be aware of:
No Alt Text: The Alt text conveys the content and purpose of the image. People with visual impairments rely on screen readers and cannot understand images without descriptive alternative text.
Lack of Keyboard Navigation: People with mobility impairments find it difficult to use websites with a mouse or trackpad. All interactive elements should be accessible via keyboard navigation.
Poor Color Contrast: People with restricted vision or color blindness cannot read between text and background. So, ensuring proper color contrast is important for readability.
Inaccessible online forms: People with disabilities may not be able to fill out or understand complex and poorly labeled forms. It must be simple, well-structured, and have clear instructions.
No Captions on Videos: People with hearing disabilities may not understand the content presented in videos or podcasts. It should have text alternatives like transcripts or captions for those who cannot access the multimedia.
Information using color only: People with color blindness may not have access to information when it is conveyed using color only. They can not differentiate certain colors, and screen readers do not tell the user the color of the text. For example, using red text alone to show required fields on the form will not help a person to know that color is used to convey some information.
These are common web accessibility barriers that need to be addressed. Also, it’s important to be mindful of common web design mistakes that might unknowingly increase these accessibility challenges.
Avoiding these helps you create an inclusive and user-friendly environment for everyone, regardless of their abilities. Knowing these aspects prompts the question, what are the standards for web accessibility?
Web Accessibility Standards
Web accessibility standards consist of guidelines and principles that define the best practices for making digital content accessible to people with disabilities. These standards ensure that the web content is understood by a wide range of users regardless of their impairments.
Let’s discuss this aspect in detail:
Legal Requirements for Website Accessibility
Is website accessibility a legal requirement? Yes.
Website accessibility is subject to legal requirements in several countries to ensure digital content is accessible to all individuals.
In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodation, which includes websites and mobile applications.
Also, section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies and organizations that receive public funding to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities.
As a result, if you do not comply with it, you might face legal consequences. Non-compliance is not permissible for reasons such as ignorance or a website under development.
Therefore, avoid the possibility of website accessibility lawsuits by creating an accessible and inclusive design and building a good reputation for your brand.
Three Levels of Accessibility Compliance
Level A: Level A shows the minimum level of accessibility. Meeting it ensures that the most basic requirements are in place, making it accessible to a few individuals with disabilities. However, it may not address all the needs comprehensively. If your website cannot reach this level, certainly, it is not accessible.
Level AA: Level AA builds upon Level A and is the most appropriate level for web accessibility compliance. Meeting level AA ensures that common barriers have been removed and a high level of accessibility achieved. Websites with level AA compliance are usable to a broad audience, including people with disabilities.
Level AAA: Level AAA is the highest level of accessibility. Meeting this criterion while developing a website shows that it has gone beyond providing accessibility features. This level indicates a comprehensive range of accessibility needs, making digital content usable by every possible audience. However, it’s quite challenging, and it may not be able to comply with all types of requirements.
It’s important to note that the choice of conformance level depends on several factors, including the organization’s specific goals, legal requirements, and user needs.
4 Principles of Accessibility - POUR
WCAG has set four principles of accessibility. These web accessibility principles are known as POUR principles. But what do the POUR principles focus on?
Following POUR principles ensures that websites are inclusive and all users, along with those with disabilities, can effectively access them. We will look at each principle in brief:
Perceivability emphasizes making information and user interface components presentable to all users, especially those with sensory impairments.
It includes providing alternative text for non-text content, ensuring content is versatile and recognizable, and offering options for different sensory abilities. For example, include text alternatives for images, video captions, and more.
Operable websites allow users to interact and navigate the website using various devices. It emphasizes that the interface should be easy to navigate, including keyboard accessibility and sufficient time to read and use content.
For example, if users struggle to use the mouse, the voice commands or tab keys on their keyboards are enough to navigate the content.
Understandability aims to ensure all content on your website, including written and graphic design content, is easily understood by visitors. It should emphasize creating content that is readable, using navigation and functionality, and avoiding input errors wherever possible.
Using a jumbled design makes it difficult for visitors to interpret and also limits access to those with difficulties. Keep the site structure simple, and your pages need to be organized with proper navigation.
Robustness focuses on creating content on your site that is easily interpreted and consumable by all visitors, including those who use assistive technology. It focuses on using well-structured code with current web standards.
Content should be compatible with current and future technologies, ensuring that it remains accessible as technology evolves. It is recommended to hire professionals to build user-driven websites.
Moreover, failing to comply with any of these makes your website inaccessible to users with disabilities.
Web Accessibility Guidelines
Text Alternatives: It includes all the non-text content and has a text alternative that describes what is going on. For example, alt text for images, captions for video, and transcripts for audio content to ensure information is accessible to people who cannot perceive the content visually or aurally.
Multimedia Alternatives: It provides alternative options to access multimedia, such as sign language videos or audio descriptions and closed captions on video, making content more inclusive for people with hearing disabilities.
Adaptable Content: This guideline means creating content that can be provided in different ways without losing meaning or structure. It allows users to customize the display to suit their needs, for example – resizable text.
Distinguishable Content: It’s essential to use color contrast for individuals with sight impairment, ensuring that content is easy to perceive and read. With sufficient color contrast and readable fonts any visual information they can understand. Also, it allows users to adjust any distractions like background audio or halt audio playback altogether.
Keyboard Accessibility: Some users cannot navigate your site using a mouse or a touchpad. So, designing websites that can be fully operated using a keyboard is essential. For example, clicking keyboard keys allows users to jump elements on the page.
Provide Sufficient Time: Allow users to extend time limits if needed to use different types of content on your site. It benefits users with cognitive or motor impairments as any action includes a time limit; they can extend or cancel it. This guideline also applies to accessible drop-down menus. If a user disengages with the menu from the mouse, setting a time delay before the menu disappears is a good practice.
Navigable and Clear structure: Help users know where they are and where they can go with a clear and consistent navigation structure. A clear page title, headings, and labels enhance user experience by signaling users where they are on your site and which elements are clickable links.
Readable & Understandable Text: Consider using simple language, provide definitions for jargon, and organize content logically. Your writing should be understandable by readers, including those learning your site’s native language.
Structure Page Logically: When planning a site’s structure, allow users to easily navigate the website. Use headings, subheadings, and a consistent layout to improve overall readability. This includes putting navigation above the fold, mostly in the page’s header (and footer).
Offer Input assistance: No one likes receiving an error message, so provide suggestions with clear descriptions of the error to help users avoid and rectify mistakes during interactions, making the interface user-friendly.
Compatible: The website must be compatible with all browsers, current and future assistive technologies, and devices. This guideline is achievable by writing valid code. If the website still needs accessibility, add ARIA attributes.
Now that you know the guidelines of web accessibility, let’s delve into a few effective tips that help you make your site more accessible.
A Comprehensive Website Accessibility Checklists
A web accessibility checklist ensures that websites are developed in compliance with WCAG standards. What should be included in an accessibility checklist?
Here is the list of simplified checklists you need to follow to create an inclusive experience.
- Images should have meaningful alt text.
- Form fields should have clear HTML label elements.
- Use semantic HTML elements for your content.
- Allow to skip navigation links.
- Use ARIA landmarks wherever applicable.
- Avoid mouse-only interaction.
- Restrict the use of flashing elements.
- Allow users to resize text to make it larger or smaller.
- Arrange content with clear headings and subheadings.
- Text and background colors should have adequate contrast.
- Do not allow multimedia to play automatically.
- Provide captions, transcripts, and audio descriptions for multimedia.
How to Test for Website Accessibility?
During the development phase, analyzing your website’s compliance is crucial. It allows for timely identification of any issues and resolve efficiently through testing and adjustments. This approach ensures that your website aligns with applicable web standards and provides amazing user experience.
There are several web accessibility testing tools that help you check the accessibility are:
WAVE is an easy tool for developers to make their web content accessible. It provides visual feedback by adding error icons and indicators directly on the web page.
WAVE highlights accessibility errors, alerts, structural elements, and features related to ARIA, allow a quick visual assessment.
SortSite is a comprehensive web accessibility tool that checks for a broad range of issues. It provides a detailed report that categorizes errors by type like missing alt text, contrast issues, etc. Each issue is linked to a specific webpage making it easy to locate and address.
A built-in tool in the Chrome DevTools that provides a variety of audits including website accessibility audit. It identifies issues on a webpage and provides a report with a breakdown of errors.
Google Lighthouse highlights errors by listing them with descriptions and ratings. Also provide suggestions to fix each issue along with links to additional resources.
Pa11y is one of the best accessibility testing tools used for automated testing. It highlights errors in the terminal by display issues along with their descriptions and code snippets.
However, it requires additional customization or integration into testing workflows to provide a more detailed breakdown of issues.
Each of these tools help you highlight web accessibility errors. The choice of testing tools depends on your specific needs, workflow, and preferences.
List of Best Web Accessibility Examples for Your Inspiration
Here is a list of the best WCAG-compliant websites for inspiration while making your website accessible.
W3C (World Wide Web Consortium): The W3C, being at the forefront of web standards and accessibility guidelines, ensures its own website aligns with the highest accessibility standards. From well-structured HTML tags to clear contrast and simple language, it has everything.
The Cram Foundation: The Cram Foundation supports those with disabilities, so having a WCAG-compliant site is necessary. It balances with user-friendly design, clear navigation, and inclusive features, making it available to a broad audience.
The White House: The White House is a government site, making critical government information and updates accessible to everyone. When you enter, you are greeted with a section where you can toggle high contrast, alter the text size, and ensure a seamless browsing experience.
Sandy Liang: Fashion brand Sandy Liang demonstrates visually appealing design for all visitors regardless of their ability. When you arrive, click the accessibility icon in the bottom right corner and make the selection according to your preference. It includes visual impairment accessibility, is ADHD-friendly, and also alters the font, color adjustment, and more.
These web accessibility examples demonstrate how leading organizations have prioritized it by providing websites that are inclusive, user-friendly, and compliant with accessibility standards.
We hope this guide on web accessibility is informative and enlightening to you. It is about compliance and creating a more inclusive and empathetic online environment.
Exploring the digital landscape should be seamless and enhance the experience for all users, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.
At WebyKing, we take accessibility seriously. As a full-service website company, our commitment extends to ensuring that the websites we design and develop adhere to the highest accessibility standards.
We believe that a truly successful website is one that all can access. Contact us if you want to build a website that is inclusive for everyone. Let’s work together!
Frequently Asked Questions
- Use free tools like Lighthouse and WAVE.
- Conduct a manual audit.
- Invest in a professional assessment.
- Check alt text for non-text content.
- Check color contrast.
- Ensure the site is keyboard-friendly.
- Ensure the site can be zoomed in without losing content functionality.
- Check for captions, transcripts on videos and audios.