What is Accessibility?
Accessibility is the practice of developing inclusive websites, tools, and technologies for everyone. The internet is a valuable resource for a variety of purposes, including education, employment, government, business, healthcare, and more. That’s why equal access and opportunity are so important. Your company must always design print, audio, and visual media for easy access.
“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
– SIR TIM BERNERS-LEE, INVENTOR OF THE WORLD WIDE WEB
The following examples of disabilities that accessibility supports:
Web accessibility also benefits users on different devices, older people, temporary disabilities (like a broken arm), situational setbacks (like limited audio), and users with a slow internet connection.
In most cases, web accessibility is required by law. It’s considered a basic human right in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD):
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines & Section 508
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1)
The WCAG standards are developed and maintained by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium, the main international standards organization for the Internet.
- WCAG Guidelines are based on the 4 principles of accessibility: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust
- WCAG has three levels of compliance: A, AA, AAA (from least to most stringent)
- Each level builds on the previous level
- The lowest tier (A) impacts the largest proportion of people
508 is shorthand for Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that requires federal government websites and applications to be safe and accessible for people with disabilities.
508 Compliance is equivalent to WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines (note that it's the older version!) – so they represent a subset of the current accessibility guidelines. They are mandatory to follow for government websites.
In this checklist, we have highlighted where 508 Compliance comes into play but including a 508 tag. Note that this checklist does not include an exhaustive list of 508 Compliance standards, which you can find here.
The Benefits of an Accessible Website
Studies show that accessible websites:
- Have better search results
- Reach a larger audience
- Provide a better user experience
- Are SEO friendly
- Have faster download times
- Encourage good coding practices
- Promote positive brand experiences
- Lead to customer loyalty and increased ROI
While inaccessible websites lead to:
- Reduced user retention
- Negative brand experience
- Legal action - lawsuits stemming from laws and policies to protect the rights of people with disabilities
Providing an equal experience for everyone is also just the right thing to do.
Accessibility Best Practices
There are many ways to include accessibility best practices in every department of your business. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Avoid confusing jargon and idioms
- Be clear and concise with button and link text
- Avoid vague language like “Click here”; give the user a clear description for what is about to happen
- Establish hierarchy and order
- Use legible fonts
- Ensure color contrasts pass WCAG 2.0 minimum
- Use more than color to signify importance or action
- Don't hide or diminish focus states
- Avoid flashing and/or jarring animations or color schemes
- Present form fields in a single column format
- Consider how layout will scale with increased zoom
- Make sure users can reach primary actions using right or left thumbs
- Make sure touch targets are at a sufficient pixel size
- Make sure touch target spacing is sufficiently apart
- Ensure Alt-Text is descriptive
- Ensure video has closed-captions
- Consider relative size of motion to viewport
- Allow control of sliders and carousels
- Prevent auto-play
- Ensure HTML is semantic
- Use ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) roles and attributes where possible
“The web was meant to be an equalizer, a level playing field for everyone. Ensuring accessibility on the web is everyone’s responsibility.”