As websites and web-based tools for the public are meant for all sort users, it is essential to get coded and designed with the special needs of disabled people also in mind. In fact, it is found that many of the web developers and designers don’t bother about it much and there are millions of sites out there with such accessibility barriers, making those impossible for differently-abled people to use.
There are some regulations mandating web accessibility to ensure maximum reach and benefits to all sorts of individuals and society. The body of international web standards, i.e., W3C consortium defines the accessibility rules to make sure that access to everyone regardless of their disabilities is an essential need.
Why web accessibility?
Quoting Tim Berners-Lee, the W3C Director “Web is designed to work for all types of people, whichever software, hardware, location, language, or abilities they have. When WWW meets this specific goal, it can be accessible to even people with a diverse range of sight, hearing, movement, and cognitive skills.”
With this move, the impact of physical or cognitive disability had radically changed on the web as it tries to remove all barriers to interact with various kinds of users. However, if the websites, web applications, tools, and technologies are badly designed, it creates barriers and excludes a certain share of people from using the web.
So, compliance with accessibility is an essential need for developers, designers, organizations, and other web administrators to create high-performing websites and tools without excluding anyone from using their web products and services.
What is web accessibility?
The basic definition for web accessibility is that ‘the web pages, web-based technologies, software and hardware tools to access the web to be designed and developed in such a way that people with disabilities also can use them properly.’ To define it specifically, people should be able to:
- Understand, perceive, navigate, and engage with the web without restrictions.
- Contribute to the web.
Web accessibility regulations cover all kind of disabilities which may hinder the access to the web as:
- Other physical
In fact, not just with permanent disabilities, but web accessibility guidelines also cover people without such disabilities too, i.e.:
- People using smartphones, smartwatches, bands, personal computers, tablet PCs, smart TVs, and any other devices with various screen sizes and different input devices, etc.
- Elder citizen with aging-related abilities
- Temporarily disabled people with a broken arm or medical concerns.
- People with situational disabilities like bright sunlight or unable to listen to particular audios.
- People with slow internet or limited bandwidth
In the changing technology world, the web is considered to be an important resource which people always want to interact with. The web plays a crucial role in every aspect of life like education, social life, employment, commerce, government, healthcare, leisure, and a lot more. So, it is essential to ensure site accessibility to all users in order to offer equal access and equal opportunities to all with different abilities. The right to information with unrestricted access to all kind of technologies, including web is considered to be a basic human right by the UN CRPD (United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities).
Apart from the social cause, there is also a very strong business cause for ensuring accessibility. Accessible design of a web page or technology tool can improve the overall user experience across all types of users, which in turn can ensure customer satisfaction. This can be true in a variety of situations, across devices, and for all different ages. Ensuring accessibility of your products and services can enhance the reach of a brand, drive more innovation, and ultimately contribute towards brand acceptance and business success.
Important information for web developers
Web accessibility requires various components to work together like designs, web technologies, browsers, user agents, authoring technologies, and websites. The WAI (W3C Web Accessibility Initiative) has developed guidelines, technical specs, development standards, techniques to describe web accessibility, and there are many supporting resources available which describe these. WAI is considered to be the international standard for ensuring web accessibility, and there are different provisional laws also out there for accessibility compliance.
Inputs to web developers to ensure accessibility
If you know anyone who is visually challenged, then you may be able to understand what their concerns are while using the internet. Even you can feel it yourself if close your eyes and try to access the content of a website or choose your favorite track from the music playlist.
The visually impaired people used to access the internet with the help of some screen readers like VoiceOver or Jaws etc. These works like the search engine bots, which actually rely on the code signals to determine the page content and navigation patterns.
So, it is important for web developers to understand how these work in order to arrange a web page accordingly and ensure accessibility compliance. However, from the above note, it should be assumed that your website is accessibility-ready by making it fine-tuned for web search crawlers.
Even though there are a lot of commonplaces where the accessibility rules and search optimization cross, developers and designers need to consider web accessibility as a different game. Some general things to ensure at the baseline to ensure accessibility are:
- Provide proper image captions and alt texts
- Give text transcription for vides
- Proper alt attributes for graphics and images
- Title tag
- H1, H2, H3 tags
- Information anchor text for the links
- Detailed sitemaps
- Table of content
- Balanced color contrast, background, and text size
- Semantic HTML
If you are trying to develop a web page yourself, then one should learn everything about web accessibility first. Check the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines first, which may be a bit complex, but slowly proving out to be mandatory. In fact, Google also considers web accessibility as one among the top-ranking factors, so this aspect should be taken care of well in order to see your website on top of the search engine results.