The internet is a ubiquitous part of modern society; this means that now more than ever, web designers and developers have a responsibility to ensure that their websites are accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities.
Today, web accessibility is the practice of designing and developing websites that can be used by everyone, regardless of their physical or mental abilities. Unfortunately, many websites aren’t really designed with accessibility in mind, leaving millions of people unable to access the content and services they need. In fact, according to the World Health Organisation, there are approximately 1.3 billion people living with some form of disability worldwide.
That’s over 15% of the global population!
Web accessibility, therefore, is not just about complying with legal requirements – it’s about creating an inclusive online community where everyone can participate and contribute equally.
Why Web Accessibility Matters
Web accessibility is no longer just a moral imperative or the politically correct way of doing things; it’s also a legal requirement. In Australia, The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) and the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Transport Standards) mandate accessibility for all websites, and non-compliance can lead to legal action and significant penalties.
Beyond just the legality of it, there are other compelling reasons why web accessibility matters. For one, inclusive website design elements mean that everyone can access your content and services, regardless of their abilities, fostering a more diverse online community, where everyone can participate and contribute equally.
These kinds of websites are also great for business. In fact, accessible websites are often more user-friendly and easier to navigate, improving the overall user experience. This, in turn, can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, as well as improved conversion rates and profits.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
If you’re a web developer looking to create a website that’s inclusive and accessible to all users, then you need to know about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1.
Developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), these guidelines provide a comprehensive framework for creating accessible web content that’s recognized worldwide as the standard for web accessibility.
With specific recommendations like providing text alternatives for non-text content, captions and audio descriptions for multimedia, and keyboard accessibility for interactive elements, WCAG 2.1 is a vital tool for developers who want to make their websites welcoming and accessible to everyone. Following these guidelines is crucial, as it ensures that users with disabilities can access and use the content just as effectively as any other user.
Tips For Designing Inclusive Websites
So, how can you ensure that your website is accessible to all users?
- Stick to clear and concise language
Use simple language that is easy to understand, and avoid using complex jargon or technical terms.
- Use descriptive alt text
Ensure that all images have descriptive alt text that can be read by screen readers, which is immensely useful for people with visual impairments to understand the content of the image.
- Utilise proper heading structures
Use heading tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) to structure your content properly, as it helps screen readers understand the hierarchy of your content and makes it easier to navigate.
- Use high-contrast colours
Ensure that your text and background colours have a high contrast ratio, which will make it easier for people with visual impairments to read your content.
- Provide keyboard accessibility
You also need to look into whether the interactive elements on your website can be accessed and used with a keyboard. This is important for people with mobility impairments who may not be able to use a mouse.
- Provide video captions and transcripts
Ensure that all videos on your website have captions or transcripts. This helps people with hearing impairments to understand the content of the video.
- Test your website
Finally, it’s important to test your website for accessibility. There are many tools available that can help you to identify accessibility issues and make the necessary changes.
Make Web Accessibility Your Calling Card For Success
At a time when more and more people are on the internet and we’re seeing a greater diversity of the people who use it, web accessibility is an essential part of website design and development. By designing inclusive websites, you’re simply creating more opportunities for more people to engage and interact with your brand.
Leaving aside the business benefits of it, it’s also a step on our journey to a more equitable online community.
As David Elliott, Director of Australian-based web design company Fox & Lee, recently stated, “We believe that web design is the future”. And accessibility is at the heart of it.