Intro to Web Accessibility: The Important Facts Beginners Should Know

Web accessibility is important so those with disabilities can use websites without any issues, but it’s also important because it increases the number of users who will view your website. The major search engines are well-aware of whether or not a website is accessible, and those that aren’t will suffer when it comes to search engine rankings. Besides that, if your website is not accessible, there could be negative legal ramifications as well. In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into what website accessibility is and details on how you can ensure your site meets accessibility requirements. 

Ready to make your website more inclusive and accessible to all users? Contact us today to learn how our web accessibility services can help you create a digital experience that's welcoming and user-friendly for everyone.

Accessibility icon of a person with arms outstretched in a blue circle, representing web accessibility for all users

What is Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility refers to the process of making websites, web applications, technologies, and tools accessible to people with disabilities. It involves creating an environment that allows users of all abilities and disabilities to participate in activities online. This includes physical impairments such as blindness or limited hearing, mental impairments such as learning disabilities or cognitive impairments, and neurological impairments such as autism or a brain injury.

Accessibility features such as keyboard accessibility, alternative text descriptions, and captions can help people with disabilities access the web more easily. By making the web accessible to everyone, it helps make sure that all users have equal access to information and resources online. Additionally, it not only benefits those with disabilities but also makes the web more user-friendly for everyone. It’s an essential part of creating a better, more inclusive internet experience for everyone. 

Web accessibility is not just applicable to websites but also applies to mobile apps, software, and other technologies. Providing maximum access to content helps ensure that people with disabilities can fully use these services. It also helps businesses meet legal requirements and ensure compliance with web standards for usability and accessibility. Additionally, it can help organizations reduce their risk of potential litigation and improve the overall user experience for all users. By making websites accessible to everyone, businesses can ensure that they meet their legal obligations and provide an equitable experience for all users. Web accessibility is an important part of the digital landscape and it’s essential to creating a more inclusive online environment for all.

Why is Web Accessibility Important?

Web accessibility is important for ensuring that everyone has equal access to a website or application. Accessibility encompasses a wide range of disabilities, including physical, cognitive, neurological, and visual impairments.

It’s the practice of ensuring that those websites, tools, and technologies are accessible to everyone, irrespective of any disability or impairment. Accessibility also benefits users without disabilities by making websites easier to use for all visitors. Having an accessible website means greater inclusion and diversity among your user base.

Web accessibility is an important issue for all businesses and organizations as it has a significant impact on the user experience. Making sure that your website is accessible benefits both the business and its customers by allowing more people to access information with ease. Additionally, businesses that make their websites more accessible to visitors often gain improved visibility in search engine results pages and will be subject to fewer legal challenges related to non-compliance with web content accessibility guidelines. A study by Gartner showed that digital products in full Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Level 2 compliance are expected to outperform their market competitors by 50%. You can view that stat along with many other helpful web accessibility statistics here.

  • Globally, the market that includes people with disabilities as well as their family, friends, and advocates are estimated to control over $13 trillion in annual disposable income. (The Return on Disability Group, 2020)
  • In a study of the home pages for the top 1,000,000 web sites, over 51 million distinct accessibility errors were detected. This is an average of 51.4 errors per home page. (WebAIM, 2021)
  • 38.6% of employees reported that their product’s level of accessibility was called out as a reason for purchase by customers. (LevelAccess, 2021)
  • Digital products in full Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Level 2 compliance are expected to outperform their market competitors by 50% by 2023. (Gartner, 2020).
  • In a survey by Nucleus Research and Deque Systems, 70% of websites, ranging from top ecommerce sites to presidential campaign sites, had critical accessibility blockers. (Nucleus Research, 2019)

Compliance with web accessibility standards helps ensure that users with disabilities can access content and interact with websites just like any other user. This includes providing closed caption captioning for videos, using appropriately labeled form fields and links, ensuring proper heading structure, and making sure charts or graphs are readable by assistive technology devices, among other things. 

By making sure your website is optimized for accessibility, you’re not only expanding the potential reach of your products or services, but also improving user experience and creating a more welcoming online environment for all visitors.  Accessibility should be an essential part of any business' website strategy if they are to remain competitive in today's digital world.

You can download a whitepaper written by one of Americaneagle.com’s web accessibility experts for even more information about this important topic. 

Benefits of Accessibility

Website accessibility is an important aspect of any online business. It refers to the ability of people with disabilities to access and use your website. Accessibility involves making sure your website is designed and coded so that all users, including those with disabilities, can access and use it. Below, we will discuss the benefits of website accessibility and why every business should take it seriously.

Increase Your Audience

By making your website accessible, you are opening your business to a wider audience. According to the World Health Organization, 1.3 billion people in the world – 16% of the world’s population – have some form of disability, and that’s a vast audience that you don’t want to miss out on. By improving the accessibility of your website, you can make it easier for people with disabilities to access your products and services, and this can help you to generate more revenue.

Improve Your SEO Standing

A website that is designed and coded with accessibility standards in mind will perform better than one that is not. Google, for example, takes website accessibility into account when ranking websites. So, if your website is accessible, you are more likely to rank higher in search engine results pages, which can help you attract more visitors to your website.

Make Your Business More Inclusive

Website accessibility is an ethical issue as well as a practical one. By making your website accessible, you are demonstrating that your business is committed to inclusivity and accessibility for all. This is a great way to build trust with your customers and it can help to improve your brand reputation as well.

Avoid Legal Issues

In many countries, including the US, accessibility is a legal requirement. Failure to comply with accessibility standards can lead to legal issues and hefty fines. By making your website accessible, you can avoid legal issues and ensure that your business is compliant with the law.

Enhance User Experience

Accessibility features that make websites easier for people with disabilities to use can also improve the user experience for all users. For example, clear and concise text, well-organized content, and easy-to-use navigation are all important features that can benefit everyone who visits your website.

Website accessibility is an important issue that every business should take seriously. By making your website accessible, you can increase your audience, improve your SEO standing, make your business more inclusive, avoid legal issues, and enhance user experience. If you are not sure how to make your website more accessible, it’s important to call an experienced website design and development company with a team of accessibility services experts that can help you improve the accessibility of your website.

How is Web Accessibility Enforced?

In today’s digital age, web accessibility has become an important aspect of website development. As noted, web accessibility is the practice of designing websites and digital content so that people with disabilities can access this information without a problem. It is essential to ensure that everyone can access important digital content regardless of their disability. While most people may not be aware of it, web accessibility is not optional; it is a legal requirement. Let’s delve into how web accessibility is enforced.

The information technology (IT) sector is subject to specific regulations and laws regarding accessibility, and web accessibility is no exception. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has specific requirements for web accessibility that apply to organizations in the US. These rules ensure that organizations provide equal access to people with disabilities. Companies must comply with the regulations regarding web accessibility or they may be sued.

The ADA regulations apply to the public sector as well as the private sector. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide a clear roadmap for organizations to meet these requirements. These guidelines are international standards that specify how web content should be made accessible to people with disabilities. They include ways to design content for people with visual or hearing impairments, physical disabilities, and cognitive impairments.

Meeting web accessibility standards requires more than just making sure your site is compatible with screen readers. WCAG 2.0 outlines the three different components that need to be taken into account: content, technology, and architecture. Content encompasses things like alt text on a page as well as menus, while technology covers multimedia elements such as animation and audio files; both are important in ensuring users can access information easily regardless of ability level or the platform being used. Web architecture serves to ensure sites have an intuitive, accessible structure for navigating between pages. Together, these criteria make up the complete picture for creating accessible digital experiences everyone can enjoy.

To ensure compliance with these guidelines, organizations can carry out accessibility testing on their websites. They can also work with accessibility experts to ensure that their websites adhere to the WCAG standards. Accessibility testing enables organizations to identify the website's accessibility barriers and address them. Accessibility experts can also provide tips on how to improve website accessibility for people with disabilities.

Enforcement of web accessibility laws primarily lies with governmental agencies. These agencies can investigate complaints or issue compliance orders. If found in violation of accessibility regulations, organizations will be required to make the necessary changes to their websites. Companies may also be liable to financial penalties if they fail to comply with the accessibility requirements.

Web accessibility enforcement is important because it ensures that people with disabilities can access essential digital content. The ADA regulations and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide a roadmap for achieving website accessibility. Companies can achieve compliance by carrying out accessibility testing and working with accessibility experts. Government agencies are responsible for enforcing accessibility regulations, and companies found violating these requirements can be fined. Therefore, it is essential that your site complies with web accessibility regulations for the good of all users.

Web Accessibility Standards

There are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust aspects of web accessibility standards that organizations need to understand in order to ensure their online applications are meeting all of the requirements of accessibility. Below are more details on these aspects.

Perceivable

Making Your Website Accessible to Everyone: Understanding Web Accessibility Standards
It is essential for businesses, organizations, and individuals to understand the importance of web accessibility standards. In today's digital world, a website serves as the primary platform for communicating information to the masses. Websites that are not accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities, can cause significant problems that limit your reach and success. Therefore, it is essential to improve your website's accessibility and ensure that it meets the relevant web accessibility standards.

It’s important to understand web accessibility standards and how you can improve your website's accessibility. Web accessibility standards are a set of guidelines that define how websites should be designed and developed to make them accessible to people with disabilities. The most common web accessibility standards are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. These standards define how a website should be structured, designed, navigated, and presented to ensure that it can be understood by everyone, including those who are visually, hearing, or motor impaired.

The Benefits of Web Accessibility Standards
Designing your website to meet web accessibility standards can provide many benefits. For one, an accessible website can reach a wider audience, including people with disabilities. Additionally, accessible websites can help you to comply with the law, avoid legal issues and lawsuits, and remain competitive in today's digital age.

Improving Your Website's Accessibility
Improving your website's accessibility doesn't have to be complicated. It mainly involves addressing the website's design, development, and content. This includes easy-to-read content, proper color contrast, providing alternate text for images, audio, and video, and ensuring the website is navigable using the keyboard.

Tools and Resources for Website Accessibility
Fortunately, there are many web accessibility tools and resources that can help you make your website accessible, especially if you're not familiar with web design and development. These tools include automated web accessibility checkers, accessibility plugins and extensions, and templates designed to meet web accessibility standards.

Partnering with a Web Accessibility Expert
Partnering with a web accessibility expert is also crucial in ensuring that your website meets all web accessibility standards. A team of web accessibility experts with experience can audit your website and identify areas that need improvement. Additionally, they can develop an accessibility plan, advise on how to implement structural changes, and offer guidance throughout the process.

Improving your website's accessibility is essential if you want to reach a wider audience, comply with the law, avoid legal issues, and remain competitive. Understanding and implementing web accessibility standards can help you achieve this. It doesn't have to be complicated, and there are many tools and resources at your disposal, including partnering with a web accessibility expert. Taking the necessary steps to ensure your website is accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities, is crucial. By doing so, you will be doing your part in making the internet more inclusive and accessible for all. Click here for a helpful guide to web accessibility from Americaneagle.com. 

Operable

Web accessibility is highly crucial in ensuring that websites are easily accessible to people with disabilities. Among the four key principles of web accessibility, operability is a crucial aspect that every web designer and developer needs to consider carefully. This principle ensures that the features and functions of a website are easily operable through various input devices, including touch screens, a computer mouse, and the keyboard. Working with an expert in web accessibility is crucial in addressing operability issues since they possess the necessary knowledge and experience required to identify areas that may hinder the seamless use of a website. Moreover, web accessibility experts can recommend appropriate solutions that improve operability, making it easier for people with disabilities to navigate websites with ease.  

Understandable

Another critical aspect of web accessibility is ensuring the understandable nature of websites for users with different abilities. For instance, text alternatives (or alt texts) are vital to web accessibility as they provide a means for people with visual impairments to interpret images through text-to-speech software. Additionally, captions and transcripts in videos can enable users who are deaf or hard of hearing to understand the audio content.

Simple and consistent navigation sequences, such as those using headings, menus, and landmarks, make it clear where the users are on the website. Moreover, using familiar language and avoiding technical jargon can make web content more approachable and easy to understand. For individuals with cognitive limitations or neurodiverse traits like autism, the presence of a built-in dictionary or tooltip can increase comprehension and reduce cognitive load. Adhering to these and other understandable facets of web design makes online content more accessible and inclusive for all users, regardless of their abilities.

Robust

One crucial aspect of web accessibility that should not be overlooked is robustness. In the context of web accessibility, robustness refers to a website's ability to handle and continue to function properly even when faced with errors, changes in technology, or differing user needs.

There are a few key ways to ensure that a website is robust. First and foremost, adhering to web standards set by the W3C is essential. These standards, such as HTML5 and WCAG 2.1, are designed to ensure that websites are consistent across different browsers and devices, making them more resilient to changes in technology. Additionally, using semantic HTML, providing text alternatives for non-text content, and ensuring that website functionality can be accessed by keyboard as well as mouse can all contribute to a more robust website. By prioritizing the robustness of web accessibility, websites can ensure that all users are able to access their content, regardless of any potential barriers or challenges.

Accessibility Compliance

There are a few different levels of accessibility compliance that exist, and the details of each are important for any business or organization to understand. Non-compliance and the repercussions of it are also critical and below you will find more information on these important facts.

Level A

Web accessibility compliance Level A is essential for ensuring equal access to web content for all individuals, regardless of disability. In order to be compliant, websites must adhere to specific guidelines laid out by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, including the use of alt text for images, captions for videos, and clear headings for text. Compliance not only benefits individuals with disabilities, but it also benefits organizations by expanding their audience and improving their overall user experience. Furthermore, many countries, including the United States and European Union, have enacted laws mandating web accessibility compliance, making it not only a moral obligation but a legal one as well. In today's digital world, web accessibility compliance is not just a best practice, but a necessity in promoting inclusivity and equal access.

Level AA

Compliance with level AA is particularly important as it includes all Level A requirements and provides specific guidelines for content that must be perceivable, operable, and understandable. These guidelines include the use of alternative text for images, providing captions for videos, providing high-contrast color options, ensuring keyboard accessibility, and using clear language and layout for easy comprehension. Not only does complying with Level AA make a website accessible for those with disabilities, but it also benefits businesses by improving search engine optimization, boosting user engagement, and avoiding legal troubles related to non-compliance.

Level AAA

While Level AA compliance is the standard benchmark for most websites, achieving Level AAA compliance is a testament to a website's commitment to accessibility. Level AAA compliance requires websites to meet a higher standard of accessibility guidelines than Level AA. For instance, websites with Level AAA compliance provide sign language interpretation for all video content, no content flashes more than three times a second, and text has a contrast ratio of at least 7:1. Despite being the most challenging level to achieve, Level AAA compliance should always be the goal. It ensures that all users, especially those with disabilities, can access websites with ease and is an essential step towards inclusive design.

Non-Compliance with Web Accessibility

Non-compliance with web accessibility can have a serious impact on people with disabilities. In fact, studies have shown that over 70% of websites have accessibility barriers that prevent people with disabilities from accessing them effectively. These barriers could include missing or incorrect alternative descriptions for images, videos, or audio content, poor use of heading structures, insufficient color contrast, and lack of keyboard accessibility. The consequences of these barriers could also be significant, from discouraging users from visiting a website to potential legal action. In the United States, for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been used to sue various organizations for their failure to comply with web accessibility guidelines. To avoid these consequences, it is essential for all businesses, organizations, and government agencies to prioritize web accessibility and ensure that their websites are compliant with the latest accessibility standards and guidelines.

How to Make Your Website Accessible

Making your website accessible is essential to ensure that all users can access it regardless of any disabilities they may have. There are numerous ways to make your website accessible, and by implementing these strategies, you can create a website that is both engaging and inclusive.

First, ensure that your website is compatible with screen readers and assistive technologies that are commonly used by those with visual or hearing impairments. This can be done by using descriptive and accurate alt tags for non-text content on your pages. Secondly, ensure that your website has a consistent and easy-to-use navigation structure that adheres to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards. In addition, keep your website free of clutter, use simple language, and ensure that the color scheme is such that it is easily readable by all users.

Implementing these guidelines is crucial in creating an inclusive and accessible website that caters to all users. By making your website accessible, you can reach a broader audience, and you will enhance the user experience, delivering a more equitable and fair online environment for all your users. Learn more by reading our informative blog on "5 Ways to Make your Website Accessible."

Web Accessibility Tools

Web accessibility is a crucial aspect that should be taken very seriously when designing and developing websites. It ensures that individuals with disabilities, such as vision or motor impairment, are able to access and interact with web content with ease. To achieve this, web accessibility tools come into play. These tools help websites to adhere to accessibility guidelines, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), to ensure that everyone can access web content.

There are various types of web accessibility tools available, including text-to-speech software, screen readers, keyboard navigators, and captioning systems, among others. These tools help individuals with different types of disabilities to navigate web pages and interact with website content. By incorporating web accessibility tools in website design, website owners ensure that their websites are accessible to every user regardless of their physical or mental challenges. This not only benefits the website visitors but also enhances the website's user experience (UX) and boosts the website's SEO ranking. Therefore, web accessibility tools are essential in ensuring that the web remains inclusive to all individuals.

Accessibility Testing

Web accessibility testing is the process of assessing whether a website or web application can be used by individuals with disabilities. This testing is conducted to ensure that users with varying levels of ability, including those who are visually or hearing impaired, have access to the information presented on the site in the same way that fully-abled users do. In addition, testing is used to evaluate the usability of a website for people who may not be familiar with its navigation or those who use assistive technologies, such as screen readers or voice recognition software.

There are a number of different methods for conducting web accessibility testing. One common approach is to manually test a website by reviewing its code to identify potential issues that may prevent certain users from accessing the site. This process can be time-consuming and requires a high degree of technical knowledge. Alternatively, automated testing tools may be used to evaluate a website’s accessibility. These tools scan a site and identify potential issues based on pre-established accessibility guidelines.

Regardless of the method used, the importance of web accessibility testing cannot be overstated. With an increasing number of people relying on the internet to access information, products, and services, it is essential that websites be designed and developed to be inclusive of all users. Failure to do so not only limits the potential reach of a site, but risks legal action as well. Conducting regular accessibility testing is therefore critical to ensuring that a website is available to all users, regardless of their physical and cognitive abilities.

Web Accessibility FAQs

Will a great website design be negatively impacted by compliance with web accessibility?

No. Incorporating accessible web design ensures your website will have a visually clean and organized appearance that makes navigation a breeze, benefiting all users - particularly those with disabilities. In essence, web accessibility is integral to good design and ultimately enhances the overall look and usability of your website.

What are the best colors to use for web accessibility?

When designing, remember that the contrast between colors or backgrounds is most important. Don't rely solely on color to convey important information. And steer clear of flashy, overly-saturated red elements.

Is accessible design more than simply how the website looks?

Accessible design is about more than just aesthetics. It takes into account the functional needs of users with various disabilities and utilizes digital tools to meet those needs. Let's create an inclusive website for everyone.

Besides accessibility for the blind or visually impaired, what are some other benefits of accessibility?

There are many – an example would include incorporating user controls in image carousels to ensure the animation doesn't hinder the focus of users with cognitive or neurological impairments. Another examples is a logical hierarchy of headlines and font sizes is maintained throughout the page to better support those with cognitive disabilities.

Is my website accessible if it just has an accessible design?

No. While accessible web design is crucial for web accessibility, it's not the whole picture. Web developers frequently add more functionality to accessible web design features, which aids diverse user groups in overcoming a range of conditions and challenges.

We're Your Go-To Web Accessibility Experts

The internet should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their physical or mental abilities. Sadly, many websites still lack the necessary accessibility features to provide access to information for every user. Moreover, mounting legal pressure has resulted in an increase in cases for non-compliance. To ensure that your website meets the required web accessibility standards, contact Americaneagle.com. We'll conduct a comprehensive audit to identify potential issues and provide a roadmap to remedy them. Don't let lack of compliance deprive you of potential customers!  Contact us today.


About Author

Shawn Griffin
Shawn has been with Americaneagle.com since 1999 in a variety of roles. Currently, Shawn is part of our digital marketing and content team. In addition to editing and producing written company pieces, he produces copy for clients and he also helps to produce our radio and TV spots. He wants to make sure everybody knows that it’s truly a collaborative effort – between many, including the people he’s worked for during the past 20+ years!


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