Web accessibility has been a hot-button topic for some time now – and that’s likely not going to change anytime soon. As more and more websites take the practice into consideration, we thought it would be beneficial to create this guide. Below, we detail everything you should know about web accessibility in 2022.
What is Web Accessibility?
According to the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), web accessibility means that “websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them. More specifically, people can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the web as well as contribute to the web. It encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the web including auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, and visual.”
Web accessibility also benefits those without disabilities. For instance, people using mobile phones, smart watches, smart TVs, and other devices with small screens and input modes, older people with changing abilities due to ageing, people with “temporary disabilities” such as a broken arm, situational limitations such as bright sunlight, and more.
Why is Web Accessibility Important?
Making your website accessible ensures that all of your potential users, including people with disabilities, have a decent user experience and can easily access the information they need. Accessibility has tangible business benefits including increasing audience reach, improving user experience, improving rank on search engine results pages, and avoiding legal issues.
Additionally, because of the recent growth and popularity of purpose-driven brands, websites designed with accessibility and inclusivity in mind resonate better with users.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of guidelines established by the WAI for making web content more accessible to people with disabilities. The latest version of WCAG 2.1 and contains 13 guidelines under four main principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Each guideline contains one or more “testable” success criteria to determine and achieve WCAG compliance. Additionally, the 2.1 version added 17 more success criteria from the previous version, 2.0, to better account for mobile accessibility, people with low vision, and people with cognitive and learning disabilities.
The success criteria of WCAG standards have three levels of compliance:
- Level A – The minimum level of accessibility which covers the most basic requirements of features.
- Level AA – Requires everything in Level A plus a few additional requirements. When a website is Level AA compliant, it’s typically a big deal as many of the biggest accessibility hurdles are cleared.
- Level AAA – Requires everything in Level A and Level AA plus a few additional requirements. It’s the most difficult level to achieve.
10 Terms to Know
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – A U.S. federal law that “prohibits discrimination again people with disabilities in areas including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government programs and services.”
- Assistive Technology – Hardware or software that allows people with disabilities to interact with computers or computer-based systems more easily. Common technologies include screen readers, refreshable braille displays, screen magnification tools, audio browsers, and more.
- Color Contrast – The difference in light between two adjacent colors on a web page. If the contrast between two elements is insufficient, accessibility will be hindered. For instance, light-color text over a white background may be difficult for those with visual impairments to see. The WCAG recommends a color contrast ratio of 4.5:1 between text color and background color.
- Hierarchy – The organization of web page content by level of importance. It’s often established with HTML heading elements such as <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, and so on. Hierarchy is designed to help screen reader users understand the structure of a web page and navigate accordingly.
- Screen Reader – An assistive technology that converts digital text into speech or braille output. They’re used primary by people with blindness or visual impairments to navigate web pages and other software. Designing web pages for screen reader accessibility is a primary goal of the WCAG.
- Semantic HTML – An HTML that communicates the meaning of its elements through the correct use of HTML tags. It helps people using assistive technologies to understand the structure and components of a web page. Semantic HTML is also referred to as semantic markup.
- Success Criteria – For each WCAG guideline, there are multiple testable success criteria. Each success criteria are assigned a level of compliance: A (lowest compliance), AA, or AAA (highest compliance). The compliance level for each criterion is determined by several factors including necessity, technical requirements, and more.
- Universal Design – A concept in which products and environments are designed to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. In theory, a website’s design should work for any user right out of the box.
- Usability – The ease with which users can achieve their goals within a website. It measures the quality of the user experience when interacting with a web page. Accessibility is usability by those with disabilities.
Accessibility benefits all types of website users and should be kept top of mind during design. Do you know if your website is accessible and ADA compliant? If you’re not sure, let us help you. Fill out this form to get your accessibility assessment started today.