Make Your Website Accessible to All
Posted on 21st October 2021
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are part of a series of guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium, who are the main international standards organization for the Internet.
Primarily but not solely for those people with a disability, the guidelines are a set of recommendations for making Web content more accessible.
They explain how to make digital services, websites and apps inclusive and accessible to everyone, including:
People with impairments to their vision - severely sight impaired (blind), sight impaired or colour blind people.
People with hearing difficulties the deaf or hard of hearing.
People with mobility issues who find it difficult to use a mouse or keyboard.
People with dyslexia, autism or learning difficulties.
In the UK, 1 in 5 people have a disability
These disabilities could be visual or hearing. People with motor disabilities affecting fine movement and control or cognitive affecting memory and thinking.
Accessibility may not only be thought of for those with long term or permanent disabilities, anybody could have different needs at different times which affect their ability to use or access your digital service. Consider people who maybe recovering from an illness, a stroke or a broken arm. We may have all experienced difficulties accessing information online when in a noisy environment or struggle to see the content on screen outdoors in the sun. Slow Wi-Fi or accessing websites on mobile devices or old browsers can also affect accessibility.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines address many design and functionality topics with the aim to consider almost every accessibility issue any user may face. Working with these guidelines and thinking about accessibility when designing a new website or app will help you provide a service and information which is inclusive to all.
Public Sector Websites and Apps
For the public sector providing websites or Apps that meet these guidelines became a legal requirement in September 2020. This includes Central and Local Government organisations including town, parish, community councils etc, charities if they are mostly public funded and are essential to the public or aimed at disabled people.
Schools while partially exempt do have certain accessibility responsibilities as well and must include a suitable accessibility statement on their website explaining to what extent they comply.
What does this mean for my Business then?
So complying with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines isn't currently a legal requirement for private businesses, clubs, personal websites etc. so why care about it. I go back to the statistic that 1 in 5 people in the UK have some form of disability, therefore do you not think it would be prudent, sensible, responsible to look at your website from an accessibility viewpoint. If you can make your business, club or even hobby website fully inclusive to all online visitors then this has to be a good thing.
And while many of you may not be directly involved in public sector organisations as part of your main business, some of you will be involved part time, possibly voluntarily. Parish Councillors for example or you may be involved with local charities on an advisory or fund raising capacity. If this is the case it could be worth you looking into this and asking the question, is our public sector website accessible?
WCAG Main Principles
There is a lot of detail within WCAG, this can be daunting but it is mostly common sense and if you set out with an accessibility mindset when creating a website or app design then you will likely comply with most of the guidelines from the start.
There are 4 main principles to Web Accessibility
1. Perceivable information and user interface
You need to make sure users of your website can recognise and use your service with the senses that are available to them. Some examples, if you add video to your website then it should include captions or subtitles. Images should have Alternative Text descriptions so assitive software can describe the images. Font size, spacing, contrast between text and background should be including in such a way to avoid difficulty in reading.
2. Operable user interface and navigation
You should make sure users can find and use your content, regardless of how they choose to access it. Example, someone with motor difficulties may find navigation by mouse difficult so being able to navigate using a keyboard or voice commands would be necessary.
3. Understandable information and user interface
All good website design should have content that is clear and concise. For an English language website it is advisable to write in Plain English, avoiding over complicated text that can be difficult to understand. If you are confident in your own writing ability then ok, employing the services of a recommended copywriter or using a website designer that includes a copywriting service though can save you time and potentially deliver better results both with regards accessibility and conversion.
4. Robust content and reliable interpretation
Your website should be accessible from reasonably outdated, current and anticipated browser as well as most common assitive technologies. This can sometimes be the hardest to get right, so using providers that understand accessibility and regularly test to ensure best possible compatibility would be advisable. You can also include an Accessibility Statement (required for public sector) with details on how a user can contact you should they experience accessibility issues and giving you an opportunity to address and rectify those issues.
Is my website accessible?
If you are interested in investigating more about whether your website is accessible or not then try using this free tool to test your website called Accessibility Insights for Web (see link below). This will provide a fast pass check of your web pages or will take you through a more detailed step by step check. We use this tool regularly when helping clients assess accessibility and the results can be quite an eye opener.
We also suggest a tool called Userway. Userway is a website widget which allows the user to alter certain elements of the website to make it even easier for them to read, for example changing font size or spacing, changing colour contrast. You can even change how the cursor works to make reading and navigation easier. Userway provides an advanced paid version of their tool although their free basic version is suitable in most cases. At it'seeze we want to help our clients with accessibility so we have included this as standard integration so all our customers can add their Userway account widget for free.
Our commitment to accessibility
At it’seeze we work with many Public Sector organisations so making sure our website design is accessible is important. Having control of our own website platform enables us to design accessibility features in as standard so some of the more technical requirements are already in place on all our websites removing any need for special coding.
So if you are involved in a public sector organisation ask the question, is our website accessible. If you are a private business or club ask the same question and consider if you would like to make your website accessible and inclusive to all.
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