All you need to know about website accessibility and why it is important

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website design

Web designers and developers are constantly challenged with finding the ultimate solutions to improve UX and UI.  But now, they also need to consider developing an accessible site. Because nowadays, making the web accessible for everyone is no longer optional—but crucial.

Why accessibility becomes more and more important nowadays

Access to the internet is now considered a necessity. It has evolved from being a privilege to a right. As information, products, and services become more and more digital—the need for web accessibility grows expeditiously.

For businesses, developers, and designers, optimizing websites to cater to not just the non-disabled users but also the “digitally challenged” is no longer optional. Run ada compliance audit and make websites accessible to everyone is the safest way to avoid lawsuits—aside from avoiding negative public relations.

Fortunately, those who will implement the standards of web accessibility—are bound to receive useful benefits. They can take advantage of expanding their audience reach, improving brand reputation, improve SEO, better conversion rates and several more. Accessible sites make visitors happy thereby creating a positive perception which eventually leads to loyalty.

What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility is all about allowing everybody (including people with disabilities, computer-illiterate, and those with limited access to the internet) to have equal access in using the web. It operates by allowing everyone an equal opportunity to use digital assets without fear of encountering barriers that hinder them in having a good user experience.

All about Web Accessibility

The goal is to develop an interface that is user-friendly, technically sound, semantically correct, and scalable in accordance with web accessibility guidelines. For instance, it should be navigable without the use of a mouse, it should have clear and legible texts and so forth.

Moreover, deliberate or unintentional non-compliance with web accessibility standards and relevant policies has appropriate legal sanctions.

What is the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a law that declares illegal, any act of discrimination against persons with disabilities.  Even though there’s no specific provision regulating accessibility in websites—it is nevertheless interpreted by the court as places of public accommodation.

Further, the DOJ issued a notice, urging organizations to observe digital accessibility best practices and follow WCAG 2.1 guidelines.

What is Section 508?

Section 508 requires federal agencies’ electronic and digital properties to be accessed by people with disabilities, whether they are federally employed or members of the public. Also, this provision equally applies to companies that transact business to a federal agency, making their digital properties accessible and declaring this accessibility through the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT).

What is WCAG?

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) presents technical requirements and guidelines on web page accessibility. This formal guide on developing accessible content applies to all digital assets. The World Wide Web Consortium formulated it primarily to allow people with disabilities to easily use websites and web tools.

WCAG 2.0 remark that fundamental design concept should be classified as: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. While WCAG 2.1 is a renewed version of WCAG 2.0 which adds 17 new standards that benefit the disabled, including mobile users.

What is VPAT ?

The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) evaluates the accessibility of a product pursuant to Section 508 Standards and WCAG conformance requirements. The vendor is required to disclose its digital products whether they are accessible or not, manifested through a report of conformance level, and serve as a reference for purchasers when buying electronics.

Web accessibility standards application to UX Design

Web accessibility standards also equate to a good UX design. This is because the accessible design is also the best practices in UX design. An excellent web accessibility UX design should be fully navigable with a keyboard alone, works with assistive technologies, and are easily understandable.

Creating a simple user interface and alternative user pathways are some of the key features designers should aim for when developing a site.

●     Explanatory link text

Text descriptions help the users to distinguish the link and assess whether to follow it. The user should have a hint where it is leading, based on the given descriptions. Similarly, text associated with the link is meant to describe the link purpose. Otherwise, the user, especially those using assistive technology tools like screen readers will be lost if its purpose is not described properly.

●     Prioritize Text Clarity

Ordinarily, text clarity is the dilemma of those visually impaired users. Designers should prioritize making their letters and text blocks appear legible and readable on the web page.

The minimum requirement for contrast ratio between text and background is 4:5:1. While 16-pixels is the required body text. Line spacing should be at least 25% of the font size. Then, the size above should be 16-pixel minimum and space is at least 4 pixels. Moreover, other measures like em, pt, or relative sizes are encouraged to be used other than only pixels as the unit of measure.

●     Don’t rely exclusively on color

Color-coding is a good way to organize and convey visual information. However, it is unwise to rely on color alone since 10% of the population is color blind. Similarly, users who use text-only, limited color and stable screen display could hardly distinguish colors.

A good practice is to try mixing text, color, labels and graphical objects. In addition, stop using bright and loud colors.  Always keep a clear contrast and refrain from making important elements color-reliant.

●     Order content in HTML for screen readers

Since HTML and CSS have been independent of each other for some time now, developers can introduce changes to what users see, even if the code structure is not modified. Additionally, sites are easy to maintain, share style sheets on other pages, and fit pages to various environments with this separation.

Developers can make modifications now and order content in HTML without altering the code structure leading to better site usability. This way, both power users and disabled users benefit from it—most especially, screen-reader users.

●     Enable keyboard navigation for web design

In general, many non-disabled users would choose keyboard navigation, especially with hotkey shortcuts. However, enabling this feature is more crucial for disabled users since this is the only way they can navigate the net. Consequently, it’s important to enable keyboard navigation for web design for better user experience.

●     Use a 40×40 pt. clickable area for touch controls

Touch controls are beneficial for users with larger fingers, users who are using assistive technologies, and users who are technically disabled. However, to be fully beneficial, designers should use 40×40 pt. clickable area in order not to frustrate these users. Because anything less than 40×40 pt. will no longer be valuable to many.

●     Do not forget to Follow the accessibility checklist

Let your site visitors feel that you value them more than anything else. Accordingly, don’t ignore what the accessibility checklist contains. Apply and practice these guidelines beginning with images, color, audio, forms to text elements.

Moreover, accessibility standards provide a better user experience for everyone. Heeding everything stated in WCAG 2.1 and other accessibility standards will provide the most meaningful and consistent experience to all audiences.

How accessible web design can lead to a better user experience

As mentioned above, web accessibility standards are also equivalent to good UX design principles. Accessible web design leads to better user experience for all site visitors. Some of these accessibility requirements that contribute to the improvement of user experience are the use of good color contrast, readable fonts, text alternatives, and audio transcriptions—to name a few.

What is Accessibility Guide and Accessibility Statement

Publishing web accessibility statement is the initial stage of conformance to web accessibility standards. It is done through linking your statement from the footer of every page and it’s best written prior to redesign or development of your site.

Further, the statement is an expression of your intent and commitment to upholding all relevant policies regarding web accessibility. It is also a welcome addition to put in your statement of how users can contact you. Publishing it likewise helps you keep away costly prosecutions.

Usability & Accessibility Testing

A part of usability testing, accessibility evaluation (or testing) considers users with all types of abilities or disabilities. Its principal objective is to determine both the usability and accessibility of a site. There are two kinds of accessibility testing: manual and automated.

So, when developing or designing a website—consider all kinds of people. This includes the disabled, those with poor communication infrastructure, the computer-illiterate, those using an old system, those using NON-Standard equipment, and those who have limited internet access.

And just like accessibility statements, accessibility evaluation is best carried out before designing and during the development process so that possible issues can be spotted easily and addressed at once.

Conclusion

Web accessibility standards are a product of shared empathy by the international community to make the web accessible and usable for all, especially individuals with disabilities. Complying with the requirements of ADA, Section 508 and WCAG accessibility guidelines provides a better user experience to everyone. Finally, developing and designing accessible sites helps you reap practical benefits aside from litigation-avoidance.