The importance of accessibility on the web

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

A Web for Everyone

How can the web be considered one of the greatest inventions of all time if it doesn’t serve everyone’s needs? Accessibility is a crucial factor to consider in web design, but it is often overlooked. It’s important to consider that your visitors may have disabilities that affect their experience on the web. These disabilities can and should be accommodated in your design.

What is Accessibility?

Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

Web accessibility means that anyone can perceive, understand, navigate, interact and contribute to the web, regardless of any disabilities they may have. It has to take into account varying capabilities of vision, hearing, touch, speech, and cognition among users. We need to design and develop the web with these considerations in mind, and provide alternatives when necessary.

The web is becoming more accessible every day. We are improving the ways we build in order to enable every user to gain access to the information they seek more easily. A more accessible web empowers all people to accomplish their goals online, whether or not they face the challenges that come with a disability.

Benefits of an Accessible Website

Businesses and organisations better serve their visitors when websites and web applications are designed with accessibility in mind. Improved accessibility welcomes new customers or visitors who would otherwise find it hard or even impossible to use your site. Customers without a disability can take advantage of a more accessible site as well, returning again and again for the better experience it offers them. A more accessible website also protects you from unwitting discrimination against those with disabilities and any potential resulting legal action. From an SEO perspective, an accessible website serves to enhance search engine rankings because the search engine operates much like a blind person. It can’t understand an image, but it can understand the accessible alternative text for the image.

An Accessible Web in Action

The web is filled with content, but for those with a disability, not all content is created equal. Some may find it difficult or impossible to consume media files in the form of images, video, or podcasts. To permit someone with a visual disability to understand the meaning of a photograph, drawing, graphic design, painting, graph, chart, animation, or video, an auditory alternative needs to be provided. For people who are hearing impaired, a text alternative will help. For people who are hearing and visually impaired, a braille alternative can be provided based on the text alternative. These alternatives are one of the main ways we make information accessible, because once content is distilled into text, it can be reproduced easily in an individual’s preferred sensory modality.

How We Approach Web Accessibility

We bring a focus on accessibility to all our projects. We strive to meet strict standards of accessibility on government projects where it’s most needed. This means ensuring we meet high standards of information structure and readability including features that enhance levels of comprehension. For example, text needs to be able to be manipulated to be readable and we have to ensure the site adapts well to any adjustments. Text also needs to meet contrast requirements, especially when set against colours or images. Natural keyboard tab sequences need to be programmed for those who navigate without a mouse. We build sites so it is easy to apply alternative text to images ensuring they are accessible.

If you would like to read more about web accessibility, an overview of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the Web Accessibility Initiative is available here: WCAG 2 at a Glance

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