What does it mean to have an accessible website?
People with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the site. Interaction includes being able to read and write.
It’s more than the ability to interact. Building accessible websites is about the experience provided by the designer and coder to folks with a variety of challenges, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological challenges.
Making a website accessible is not always straight forward. Making the right choices is key to providing a user experience that is appropriate for all audiences. Accessibility isn’t about compliance with section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (https://www.section508.gov/ & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_508_Amendment_to_the_Rehabilitation_Act_of_1973). It’s about UX.
It’s about being inclusive and broadening the scope of your audience. One of the great things about accessibility is that it helps in other aspects of your website. For example, one of the important techniques in accessibility programming is the inclusion of alt tags for images. Alt tags also help with search engine optimization. Another example is the structure of your pages. Pages with clear hierarchy in headings are accessible and also more readable for non-challenged audiences.
Making the case for accessibility
Building an accessible website or retrofitting a site is time-intensive and takes the skill of a professionally trained programmer and strategist. It costs money and takes time. For people interested in promoting accessibility in their organization there are several ways to frame the discussion.
- Inclusiveness: The most important case for building accessible websites is inclusiveness and to aid folks who need the help.
- Avoid Fines: Did you know that if you accept federal dollars you must make, not only you website, but all digital documents accessible? The fees for non-compliance can be hefty.
- Content Organization: Building accessible websites encourages the organization and optimizing of your content.
- SEO: Accessible websites are inherently optimized for search engines.
There are a variety of skills and resources needed to develop an accessible strategy. Often many of these roles are played by the same person.
- User Research Team: Includes folks with disabilities.
- Content Strategist/ Information Architect: Performs tasks related to macro and micro content. They decide which labels and names should be used. They determine key clues to help audience navigate and perform actions.
- Interaction Designer: Develop wireframe and interactive maps to best accommodate information flow.
- UX Designer: Develop the interface that best accommodates both challenged and non-challenged visitors.
Accessibility to web content is more than a trend. It is a key for everyone to access your content.
It’s a human rights issue, and a very big deal.
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative: Introduction to Web Accessibility
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative: Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization