SEPTEMBER 2020

An introduction to web accessibility

by Joni Strudwick

So what exactly is web accessibility?

Web accessibility is a measure to ensure that ALL people, including those with disabilities, permanent or temporary, are able to access, understand and use your website.

Since there are many types of disabilities, there is a wealth of factors to consider when ensuring your digital work is accessible. Fortunately, there are many resources available and an international standard we can check our work against. This article will give you an overview of what it involves, and some basic factors to consider.

Accessibility is a legal requirement!

In Australia, and many other countries, it’s now a legal requirement 1 that your website or app meets accessibility standards. In a landmark case, a famous pizza chain was sued by a blind man after he was unable to order food on their website or mobile app, despite using screen-reading software2. This was a huge wake-up call globally with more and more businesses realising that they must comply or risk offending their customers and coping a large fine.

Get better Google ranking.

Google recently released a new set of best practices, outlining that they will now be ‘optimising for a more delightful web’ 3. This means they will 'de-rank' search results for websites without good UX (user-experience) and accessibility considerations.

Intuitive, user-friendly web design and accessibility is now more important to your business than ever. 4

Honest Fox Accessibility Images

What are some disabilities?

Did you know that disabilities are not always permanent? Some are temporary and some are situational. Some categories are:

Vision impairment
  • Blindness
  • Low vision
  • Colour-blindness
Hearing
  • Conductive hearing loss - due to damage etc.
  • Neural hearing loss (nerve deafness)
Motor disabilities
  • Traumatic Injuries: spinal cord injury, loss or damage of limb(s)
  • Diseases and congenital conditions: cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, ALS, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease.
Cognitive disabilities
  • Dyslexia
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
    Brain injury: stroke, illness, traumatic brain injury, brain tumours, meningitis
  • Genetic disability: Down’s syndrome, autism, dementia…

... to name but a few.

Situational impairments

When planning for accessibility, we also consider ‘situational’ impairments. These can be everyday factors such as a busy parent with children, English as a second language or even such stories like the famous actress who was left blind for a whole week because of shampoo!

With strong accessibility principles in place, your website or app can still reach the scores of people who are facing these temporary or situational issues.

What can you do to improve your accessibility?

Your accessibility considerations should be planned from the outset rather than an after-thought. In understanding the constraints of business, you can address some common areas at any time.

Good agencies and designers will have a wealth of knowledge, not just on accessibility but inclusion (gender, race, age, sexual orientation) too, so they should be your first port of call. But, we’re also here to help spread the good word, so if you can implement some of these tips into your website, then we’re making great progress.

Tips:

  • Use simple colours

  • Ensure good colour contrast

  • Don’t use PDF’s on your website

  • Use icons and other visual aids to support text/information

  • Align text to the left and keep a consistent layout

  • Avoid complex language, abbreviations and jargon

  • Provide meaningful alt’ text in your image tags

  • Use subtitles or provide transcripts for video

  • Use progressive disclosure to hide complexity in text / long pages

  • Ensure your content is screen reader-friendly

  • Make clickable areas large

  • Give form fields space

  • #UseCamelCaseForHashtags

Adopting these measures on your website and digital outputs means more people will be able to use your website, which essentially translates to a bigger market share! As we say in design, ‘solve for one, extend too many’.

Over 4 million Australians have a disability. That's 1 in 5 people.6

Remember, many of these accessibility measures also add up to a good user experience, which is vital for the success of your website. What’s good for accessibility is also good for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) as search engines will often crawl your website in the same way a screen reader would for example. 

With the growing importance of accessibility and the many facets to consider, it’s important you chose a strategic digital partner who fully understands it and knows how to seamlessly implement it into your website or app.

With all these considerations, it’s fair to say that ensuring all of your digital assets are accessible is, not just the law or a social obligation, it also makes great business sense!

71% of people with disabilities leave a website immediately if it is not accessible.7

Want to level up or implement accessibility processes in your business? We're here to help, drop us a line!

CONTACT US

 
Resources

Microsoft inclusive toolkit - https://www.microsoft.com/design/inclusive/

References

1legislation.gov.au/Series/C2004A04426

applause.com/blog/what-dominos-case-means-for-accessibility

3 blog.chromium.org/2020/05/introducing-web-vitals-essential-metrics.html

4 fastcompany.com/90511044/google-search-will-now-favor-websites-with-great-ux

5 youtube.com/watch?v=lnvZ_4NPj58

6 and.org.au/pages/disability-statistics.html

7 3playmedia.com/accessibility-online-video-stats/

Image
Joni Strudwick

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