WEBSITE ACCESSIBILITY & INCLUSIVE DESIGN
It's pretty simple now...Websites in the United States need to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines and use inclusive website design methods.
What isn't so simple...retrofitting your current site or building a new site that meets the requirement of the various levels of compliance.
And "isn't so simple" is a real understatement. However, Technivista makes the accessibility design/implementation process as painless as possible.
On the plus side, ADA-compliant and inclusive websites are often more appealing and engaging for all users.
If you want to learn more, keep reading below.
If you want your questions answered quickly, contact us now.
What you need to know
Website Accessibility Follows Guidelines
Website Accessibility, a component of inclusive design, focuses more on removing barriers for the user and meets legal requirements set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While you are likely familiar with ADA requirements for physical locations like ramps at store entrances, or braille menus at a restaurant, the ADA also extends into the digital world.
In 2010, the Department of Justice passed the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, requiring electronic information, including websites, to be accessible to those with disabilities such as vision impairment and hearing loss.
While standards are always changing, the generally accepted standards are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Understanding the Guidelines
What are WCAG Accessibility Standards?
The WCAG documents explain how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. Web “content” generally refers to the information in a web page or web application, including:
- Natural information such as text, images, and sounds
- Code or markup that defines the structure, presentation, etc.
There are four principles/categories covered in the standards and explained below in separate sections.
The Smartest Way to Communicate
WCAG Principle #1 - PERCEIVABLE
Website accessibility assumes people need to be able to perceive web content so they can understand it. All forms of communication or information, including the Internet, are understood using one of the body’s five senses. Website users rely on sight, hearing, and in some cases, touch (we still haven’t figured out a way to use smell and taste but wouldn’t that be interesting?).
The information on a website must be perceivable by a user in a way they can access it. In other words, the information on the website can’t be “invisible” because of their disability. Accessible websites should consider each of the primary senses to provide the best user experience:
- Sight: People with full vision are generally able to perceive most websites. Using text, images, and visual cues, they can easily navigate and “see” the website. For the visually impaired or blind, though, websites can be hard to perceive. Using alt-tags for images or captions for multimedia can help users perceive the content. Contrasting colors and text sizes can also assist the visually impaired with perception. Assistive technologies such as screen readers can help a visually impaired user, but only if the website is designed with accessibility as a goal.
- Hearing: Audio content on a website should be closed-captioned for deaf users and people with temporary hearing loss to perceive the content. Other ways to make content accessible are using visual alternatives like charts, graphs, or other text. When creating new audio content, think about accessibility during planning, scripting, and recording.
- Touch: While touch is not a primary form of perception and communication, users who have neither sight nor hearing rely on touch to understand information. Web-Braille is a delivery system that relays content to a Braille embosser. Content flow on a website can impact how the content is converted into a Braille embosser, so be sure to present content in a streamlined, structured format for easy conversion.
Ease of Interface & Organization
WCAG Principle #2 - OPERABLE
Website users should have the ability to interact with a website in the way that works best for them. For example, can someone navigate the website with their keyboard rather than use a mouse or a touch screen? The website interface should be operable for users with different abilities.
Other areas of focus for operability include:
- Time-Limit Controls: Users with motor disabilities may take longer than other users to perform a task or an operation on a website. Whenever possible, give users an unlimited amount of time to complete a form, read information, or complete another task that requires data entry or interaction. Users should also be able to control media such as video. Media players should have pause, rewind, and replay functions to assist users with operation.
- Error Recovery: Accidents happen, and websites should be forgiving. Users with reduced motor skills may accidentally click on an item they didn’t intend to purchase and should be able to fix their error easily. Web developers should consider building “second chances” into their websites to allow for easy error recovery.
- Clear, Organized Layout: Content hierarchy, or how the information is organized on a website, allows users to navigate and operate a website. Clear titles, content headings, and navigation items like menus, links, and buttons should be easily identifiable and distinguishable from each other.
Ease of Interface & Organization
WCAG Principle #3 - UNDERSTANDABLE
Many websites are well designed (perceivable) and have good navigation for everybody (operable) but the content is poorly organized and confusing.
Complex content is a barrier to understanding. Word selection, sentence structure, and flow and should be as simple and concise as possible for the content.
For complicated topics, supplemental graphics or media can users understand or comprehend the content.
Good navigational functionality is also a component of understandability. When possible, navigation should be logical, consistent and offer the user an easy way to understand how to access the information they want or complete a task or get around the website.
WCAG Principle #4 - ROBUST
Technology changes often, and not everybody uses the same technology to get around the Web. Some people have older browsers, some use the leading edge apps, others may use adaptive technologies, and screen sizes come in all sizes these days.
But everybody expects a website to work using their technology of choice.
Different devices can be a challenge for website designers as it’s difficult to develop a site for all users’ technologies. Still, it’s important to develop a site to meet the broadest technology needs possible.
During website planning and development, set a baseline for requirements that are flexible and keep in mind inevitable future technologies and solutions.
One of the other important aspects about WCAG is there are different levels of compliance – A (lowest), AA (mid-range), and AAA (highest). Essentially the more A’s – the more compliant you are with accessibility guidelines and the complex the requirements.
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