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Why Web Accessibility Matters and How to Implement it
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Why Web Accessibility Matters and How to Implement it

Web accessibility is often misunderstood, but it’s quite simple to understand. The name “web accessibility” is a mouthful, so it’s more commonly referred to as just “accessibility” or “a11y” (pronounced “a-el-tee”). Accessibility is the practice of making content usable by everyone. This usually means people with disabilities or people who are using the web on different devices with different abilities—like someone using screen reader software or a keyboard with no delete button.

Labels also exist for specific forms of disability: visual impairment (people who can’t see), auditory impairment (people who can’t hear), and cognitive impairment (people who have trouble processing information). And while there may be other kinds of disability out there, these three cover most cases regarding being able to access the web.

There are laws to ensure that online content is accessible to all, and it would be best to ensure that your website —if you have one— is accessible. You can use accessiBe, an automated web accessibility solution, to ensure that your website is ADA and WCAG compliant. However,  one must first understand what web accessibility, ADA, and WCAG are all about. Here’s a detailed refresher article about the same.

Web accessibility is a pretty straightforward concept to explain

The concept of web accessibility can be a bit daunting at first, as there are many different ways to interpret and execute it. But once you break it down, it’s pretty straightforward. Web accessibility means providing equal access to content on the web for all people, regardless of their physical capabilities. To achieve this goal, consider how your website might be useful to various groups of people with different abilities.

Web accessibility is an important topic not only because it includes people with disabilities but also because it includes a lot of other groups that might not have occurred to you: those who may have old browsers or devices (particularly mobile), those who might have slow internet connections or those who may simply find themselves in need of a more convenient layout. What this means is that you don’t just want to create high-quality content and then assume everyone will be able to see it—you also need to think about how your content can be seen by as many people as possible. Asking yourself these questions won’t guarantee you’ll create 100% accessible websites every time, but they’re always good things to keep in mind.

Accessibility means ensuring all users have equal access to the website and its content

If you’re reading this on a computer, tablet, or phone, then you’re already online. From checking your email to watching funny cat videos on YouTube, you’ve probably spent some time in internet space. But what is “online”? It’s hard to define. Is it the content? The device? Both? The only thing for sure is that online spaces are constantly changing and evolving as technology does.

“Web accessibility” is a little harder to define than just “the internet,” because of all these moving parts. In its broadest sense, it means ensuring that everyone has equal access to information and resources available on a website—that might mean making sure the site is working with all web browsers, or that it can display properly on old computers (which may not have high-end specs like yours), or it might mean making sure everyone can navigate the site even if they have vision impairments (using screen readers).

The benefits of digital accessibility include universal access to content and services; improved quality of life through better access to health/social services; and more opportunities for education and employment because individuals can access their academic records and view job listings online with ease. Digital accessibility also provides great savings for both government and business by reducing costs associated with providing alternate formats or delivering materials in other ways, like human service agencies doing home visits instead of giving informational sheets out in public places. 

Of course, there are challenges, too: many organizations don’t think about digital accessibility when building their products/sites; some types of assistive technology aren’t compatible with certain devices or browsers, and learning how to use assistive technology isn’t always easy.

If we’re talking about designing a website, accessibility means making sure everyone can use it and enjoy it regardless of their ability, environment, or technical device

If you’re designing a website, accessibility is ensuring that everyone can use it and enjoy it regardless of their ability, environment, or technological device. Web accessibility isn’t just about making sure people with disabilities can use your site—it’s also about making sure people without disabilities can access your site as well.

There are two components of accessibility for a website or an app, making sure everyone can use it and enjoy it regardless of their ability, environment, or technological device; and making sure people with disabilities can use your site. Many times these two goals align with one another. 

For example, having text alternatives for non-text content (like images) makes sense for people with cognitive impairments or language barriers because they won’t be able to see the image in the first place. So let’s start on this path by considering how you could standardize your website so that users don’t have to struggle with the interpretation of what they’re looking at.

So how do you know if your website is ADA compliant?

Look, we’re not going to lie: making your website ADA compliant can be a pain. But today, we’re here to show you how easy it can be! Of course, before you go rifling through your site with a fine-tooth comb looking for accessibility issues, you’ll need to know what the ADA is. First passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is designed to avoid discrimination against people with disabilities and give them access to public spaces and services.

The ADA requires public accommodations (that’s any privately or publicly owned location that provides goods or services) to be built in such a way to ensure full access for disabled individuals—and since websites are considered public accommodations under the ADA, they must also comply with these laws.

The most widely used set of guidelines for webinars and other digital content related to accessibility are called Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). As web content becomes more diverse and complex, it may become more difficult for some users to understand the information presented on screens. WCAG helps create user interfaces that allow all users – including those who rely on assistive technologies – to have equal access when interacting with electronic information and communication.

Follow the WCAG’s guidelines

The Web Accessibility Initiative’s (WAI) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is the most industry-standardized set of rules for web accessibility; Version 2.1 was released in December of 2017. To achieve these guidelines, you must be aware of what they are, how to implement them, and why they’re important—let’s start with the first part.

While the name implies this is a guideline for content creators, it’s not limited to just that group; anyone interested in making web pages accessible should follow WCAG 2.1. Achieving compliance with WCAG has three levels: A, AA, and AAA. The AA rating is reached when one or more conformance requirements are satisfied.

For example, suppose you make sure that each image includes a text alternative according to criteria listed in WCAG Section 1.2.1 (Level A). In that case, your site is AA compliant and doesn’t need to meet other conformance requirements at that level. AAA compliance requires satisfying all Level A and Level AA requirements plus all Level AAA requirements.

A lot of companies are sued because they don’t adhere to ADA guidelines – it’s better to be safe than sorry

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines are a set of regulations on buildings and services aimed to make the everyday lives of disabled individuals better. These guidelines define areas where businesses must include or provide access for those who have disabilities, for example, ramps at entrances and elevators in buildings that can accommodate wheelchairs.

For many businesses, keeping up with the ADA standards is not just an inconvenience but an expense as well—as companies get sued if they fail to comply. The time it takes to sort out compliance varies depending on the size of a business—the larger the company, the more likely it will take more time than smaller firms—but there are ways you can get your business in compliance.

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