What Is Website Accessibility?

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Author Arjan Schouten

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Website accessibility means that people with a disability can navigate the web. Website accessibility is all about having equal access to news and data for everyone. In the past few years, website accessibility regulations came into force. What are website accessibility requirements that a website should conform to?

What Is Website Accessibility?

All people should be able to consume (digital) information, regardless of disabilities. A website needs to be understandable, readable, and easy to navigate.

This means that all individuals should be treated equally on the web. Everyone should have equal opportunity to access information.

This requires special attention for website designers and developers.

For example, websites should be accessible for users with:

  1. a visual impairment;
  2. a seizure disorder;
  3. ADHD;
  4. a cognitive disorder;
  5. a motor impairment;
  6. etc.

Accessibility standards make it easier to create an accessible website.

What is the WCAG standard?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is the international standard for accessibility online. The WCAG is developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). WCAG is developed with organizations and governments all over the world.

The first version of WCAG, WCAG 1.0 was published in 1999. In 2008 WCAG 2.0 was published. WCAG 2.0 is used by governments as the basis for accessibility laws.

In 2018, an updated version of WCAG 2 was published, WCAG 2.1. This version adds success criteria for Mobile users and people with other impairments.

WCAG Conformance Levels

WCAG specifies 3 levels of conformance:

  1. Level A: the minimum level
  2. Level AA: all requirements from Level A and more requirements
  3. Level AAA: all requirements from Level AA and more requirements

Level A is the absolute minimum accessibility conformance level, and level AAA is the strictest.

Most accessibility laws state that websites must meet WCAG-level AA.

4 Principles of WCAG's accessibility guidelines

WCAG accessibility guidelines are described in four different accessibility principles:

  1. Perceivable
  2. Operable
  3. Understandable
  4. Robust

1. Perceivable

WCAG states that information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.

The goal: A user, no matter their ability or disability, should be able to consume information.

How to conform to the WCAG perceivable principle?

To meet the WCAG perceivable principle, optimize the way you present content on a website.

To conform to the WCAG perceivable principle:

  1. Provide text alternatives for non-text content such as images and videos
  2. Provide alternative content for people with vision and hearing disabilities for video and audio
  3. Structure content using standard HTML tags
  4. Don't use color to convey information
  5. Provide enough contrast
  6. Give the user various options to make the website text more readable for them

2. Operable

A website should be operable by users regardless of disabilities. A website must be operable by mouse, keyboard, touch, and assistive technologies.

How to conform to the WCAG Operable principle?

Make sure your website can be navigated on different types of devices. For website operability, you should address:

  1. The website can be navigated by a keyboard
  2. The website provides users with enough time to read and respond (be careful with time-based content such as notifications)
  3. Be careful with animations, flashing content can cause seizures
  4. Users should be able to navigate and know where they are on a web page
  5. Use mouse and touch in a way that users expect

3. Understandable

Content on a website needs to be understandable. But that is not all, also the way of using the user interface of the website should be understandable.

To summarize this principle, a user should never be surprised by the working of the website.

How to conform to the WCAG Understandable principle?

To conform to the understandable principle:

  1. Make sure the language of all content can be determined
  2. Navigation, forms and other elements should work consistently
  3. Provide helpful error messages
  4. Help users when they make a mistake
  5. Help prevent catastrophic mistakes that have financial, legal, data, or privacy-related consequences

4. Robust

Make a robust website that can work on different devices and different screen sizes.

Make sure the website works with various browsers and with assistive technologies.

How to conform to the WCAG Robust principle?

Use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for your website. Use the technological standards for websites the way they are intended.

Valid HTML must be used, so it can be parsed correctly by all browsers. Assistive technology works best with valid HTML.

Do I Need A WCAG Audit?

When you are legally required to conform to an accessibility standard, it is smart to do an accessibility audit.

An accessibility audit is either automated or performed manually. Automated accessibility audits can detect potential accessibility issues fast. Perform an online accessibility assessment, so you can address these issues.

An automated accessibility scan cannot cover all accessibility issues. A manual accessibility audit should be performed to make sure you comply with the law.

How To Stay Compliant With WCAG?

Perform an accessibility audit from time to time. Determine how often your website changes and how big your risk for noncompliance is.

To stay compliant with accessibility legislation, you can use an automated accessibility monitor. An accessibility monitor scans your website from time to time. You get notified when a new accessibility violation is detected. ExcellentWebCheck's accessibility monitor is one of these accessibility tools.

Common Misconceptions About Accessibility Guidelines

Accessibility legislation can feel overwhelming. But actually, an accessible website has more benefits than you might think at first. A non-accessible website can miss serious business opportunities.

A website that meets accessibility requirements helps people without disabilities as well. For example, older people benefit from websites meeting accessibility requirements as well.

Take the contrast requirement , for example. Low contrast makes it hard for people with color vision deficiency to read text. For people without color vision deficiency, it is not impossible, but harder to read the text. Improving contrast ratio thus helps almost every web visitor.

Another common misconception is that accessibility covers only visual impairment disabilities. Accessibility guidelines cover almost all types of disabilities and deficiencies.

Don't miss out on business opportunities and scan your website for accessibility compliance .

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