Web Content Accessibility

Group of people holding the ACCESSIBLE written speech bubble


More often than not, the term web accessibility is used to describe how people with disabilities (including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities) can access the web. However, with the average age of web users going up every year we need to keep in mind that an aging population will generally start to exhibit issues such as loss of eyesight, manual dexterity, concentration levels, and short-term memory, thus web accessibility is also important in this context.

 

So basically, removing barriers is what ACCESSIBILITY is all about and it’s not that hard to do. Some basic understanding of web site access and usage, coupled with logic and common sense can go a long way to creating an online product, service, technology or environment usable by everyone regardless of who they are and how they access the web.

 

How do I make my web site accessible?

  • Follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) at http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/
  • Use HTML5 to design the web site while adhering to HTML5 standards and specifications
  • Use CSS for styling
  • Use the progressive enhancement approach (i.e. start with basic functionality and add any enhancements on top)

 

OK, but do I really need to bother with Web Accessibility now?

 

Answer: YES, YES, YES!

  • It’s the law…
    or it will be soon depending on your location. Web Accessibility is covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act in USA and the Equality Act 2010 in GB.
  • It makes commercial sense
    opening the web site up to a wider audience e.g. older people or people whose first language is not English, can improve your business.
  • It’s a form of redundancy/fail-over
    Using Accessibility Best Practice, websites are built from the bottom up and functionality can be added or removed easily as required.
  • It saves time and money on development and maintenance
    e.g. efficient code reduces bandwidth and using CSS reduces maintenance costs.
  • It improves search engine position (SEO) by increasing visibility

Why pay a firm to provide Search Engine Optimization (SEO) services when you can have it for free simply by making sure your site is well structured and accessible?

  • It increases compatibility across a wide range of devices and browsers.
  • It’s socially and ethically responsible.

 

So now you know the why and the how, you can help to make the web more inclusive and enable access to your site for wider range of users.

 

By Jane Campbell, Test Engineer & Mark McGuinness, Lab Manager – Olenick Global, Belfast