Tim Berners-Lee once said: “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
You may be reading this blog post and not every considering what you would do if you were visually impaired and couldn’t see the text, or our site wasn’t responsive therefore you were zooming and scrolling to read the post.
As a society a lot of people take accessibility for granted, and therefore would you even think to consider how different users with a permanent, temporary or situational disability would use your website if they needed to?
You may be completely new to web accessibility and inclusive design, or you understand the concept of accessibility and want to know more about what that means for your business and your website.
This blog introduces web accessibility, what the current legislation on accessibility is, and things for your business to think about.
What is web accessibility and what does it cover?
Web accessibility is a set of rules, behaviours, code standards and design guidelines that are meant to allow all users to effectively explore and interact with websites.
The WCAG 2.1 international guidelines detail recommendations for making the Web more accessible, enabling users to be able to:
- Interact; and
- Contribute to the Web.
The guidelines can be broken down into level A, AA and AAA. The first level (A) achieves the most basic web accessibility features whereas the top level (AAA) achieves the highest level of accessibility. It is important to note that level AAA cannot be achieved in all scenarios. Every business will be different and have different accessibility goals, but as a standard rule AA is the level to target with regards to the WCAG guidelines.
In addition to this web accessibility encompasses all disabilities both permanent, temporary and situational that include:
So when you are thinking about how accessible your website is, don’t just consider users who may be blind or unable to navigate a site with a mouse. Accessibility considers how your website performs if you had a temporary disability or situational limitation like glare from too much sunlight whilst you are on a train, you have a broken arm, lost your glasses, or have a slow internet connection.
What is the current legislation?
In the UK currently the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018 state that any public sector organisation has a legal obligation to make their website and mobile apps, documents and internal systems accessible to people with disabilities to at least AA standard and specifically refers to the WCAG 2.1 guidelines.
If you created a new public sector website on or after 23rd September 2018 then you need to meet accessibility standards. As well as this you must have an accessibility statement published on your site by 23rd September 2019.
You are probably thinking we are in 2021 those deadlines have been and gone. Accessibility continues to be an ongoing subject that is not well known or understood so the more we can share the more it can help. The deadline for mobile apps to meet accessibility regulations is 23rd June 2021.
As it stands currently only public sector organisations, excluding those who are exempt, must comply with the legislation. Beyond this the Equality Act 2010 details that all organisations in the public, private and charity sectors have a legal obligation to provide equal access to people with disabilities. However, this does not specify exact requirements.
Even though legally your business may not have to comply with the WCAG 2.1 guidelines from a best practice and equality perspective all businesses should be taking this seriously. Accessibility shouldn’t only be on your agenda from a web point of view, accessibility and inclusivity should be integrated into every aspect of your business to be fully embraced by all.
Some of the obvious areas in which websites fail to be accessible
If you do decide to read the WCAG 2.1 guidelines or make use of their quick reference guide, your immediate thoughts might be that it doesn’t make any sense, especially for those that aren’t technically minded or heavily involved in their website or mobile app development and ongoing management.
Therefore, we thought we would highlight a few things which are covered in these guidelines that you could easily consider for your website or get your website developer involved in applying.
- Colour contrast – text and images of text should achieve a 4:5:1 contrast ratio. And user interface components and graphical objects must achieve a 3:1 contrast ratio – you can easily check your colour contrast with a free online tool.
- Is your font easy to read? You may love that funky or wiggly font but how easy is it to read. Or is your font so small that your users must zoom in to read your content?
- Heading tags – do all of your pages use appropriate heading tags and does every page have one H1 tag. This is something that your web developer should be doing as good practice.
- Have all your images got alt text? This means for visually impaired users that there is an appropriate description of the image. This is also a useful SEO factor.
- Video transcripts and captions – if you have video on your site do you have the ability to add captions or link to a transcript?
- Form labels – do all your forms have labels that can be read by screen-readers so anyone using your site knows how to fill a form out?
- Timeout – do you have any aspects of your site which are limited by time? It is common to find an event ticket or sign up form to be limited but does this time limit restrict those with certain disabilities.
- Responsivity – is your site mobile friendly? If you are zooming in and out, can’t read things on a mobile, or if text gets cut off on a mobile then your site is not accessible to anyone, with or without a disability, using a mobile device.
The guidelines go into many more additional factors than this, but these are just a few examples of ways a website can easily be inaccessible, and these things can relatively easily be avoided or quickly fixed dependent on how your site is designed and built.
What does that mean for my website and my business?
If you are a public sector organisation and you haven’t considered accessibility yet then firstly check if you are exempt. You can easily find out what organisations are exempt on the gov.uk website.
If you aren’t exempt, or if you think that your business should be taking accessibility seriously then your first step is to get an accessibility audit of your website. In addition to this, you can speak to organisations like AbilityNet who have vast free resources and hold regular webinars to help businesses understand accessibility and what they need to do.
We are of course here to help as well, so if you are not sure where to start then do not hesitate to speak to our team. Call us on 01285 50 55 50 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.