The internet has become an increasingly important resource in life. We use it everywhere: at work, at home, on the road, and sometimes, even when our eyes are closed. The web is designed to work for people of all kinds – regardless of their hardware, software, language, location, or ability.
This is not always the case for people with disabilities as they often get a limited and frustrating web experience. When websites, applications, technologies, or tools are badly designed, they can create barriers that exclude people from using the Web.
What is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility or digital accessibility is the ability for an app, website, or software to be accessible to people who have a disability that affects their vision, hearing, cognition, and/or motor functions. Technology can be considered “accessible” if users are able to perceive, understand, navigate, interact, and contribute to it on the web.
To help people with disabilities, there are several kinds of assistive technology tools (software and hardware) that make it easier to navigate a website and interact with its content. Some of these tools work best if the app/site/software is built with accessibility annotations, as they give the tools more semantic information to work with. A few of these tools include screen readers, alternative keyboards and/or trackpads, screen magnifiers, eye-tracking tools, and more.
Why is Web Accessibility Important?
It is essential for digital technologies to be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with diverse abilities. Web accessibility is not only ethical but also a sound business practice as well as a legal obligation.
In many places, web accessibility is protected under various laws or may have specific legislation governing the need for websites serving their population to be accessible.
For example, in the United States, the Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that all “electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government be accessible to people with disabilities.” Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination “on the basis of disability in the activities of public accommodations.”
In New Zealand, there is also a standard that defines how to make sure websites are accessible and usable by everyone. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Human Rights Act 1993 apply to government websites. New Zealanders believe that this is a human right – online content must be accessible to provide equal access and equal opportunity to disabled people.
Web accessibility is most easily achieved when people are at the center of the process. Even those who are simply trying to avoid lawsuits will sooner or later realize that the needs of the target audience—people with disabilities—must be carefully considered and addressed.
What you can do to improve your Web Accessibility
As an aspect of user experience (UX), developers can improve the website accessibility by employing the Universal Design Principles when building or redesigning a website. Doing so can ensure the disabled community can access a particular website with the help of their assistive technology.
1. Equitable Use: The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
2. Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
3. Simple & Intuitive Use: Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
4. Perceptible Information: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
5. Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
6. Low Physical Effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
7. Size and Space for Approach and Use: Appropriate size and space are provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of the user’s body size, posture, or mobility.
Additionally, development teams can also follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to ensure people with a wide variety of disabilities can access and use their sites, apps, and more.
Digital Accessibility Matters
At Putti, we take accessibility seriously. We are continuously finding ways to make sure your websites and apps work for people with disabilities and impairments. Check out the latest digital accessibility solutions we are offering and let us know how we can help to ensure your compliance with accessibility standards.
Making sure your site is welcoming to as many people as possible should be a top priority. Not only will your users thank you, but you’ll also likely see benefits in the form of increased traffic and conversions.
By taking the time to understand the flaws in your design and content, you can make sure your site is optimized for accessibility today.