The internet is inclusive; it should be accessible to everyone, everywhere whenever needed. That’s the hope, anyway. Web accessibility goes a long way to making sure it does exactly that.
As Tim Berners-Lee famously said:
“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
Accessibility and inclusivity is a top priority for all websites we build here at Simon Antony – when you work with us, you can be confident your digital solution will offer the best possible experience to the widest range of users and devices for what it does.
WHAT IS WEB ACCESSIBILITY
Web accessibility is inclusive practice of seeking to remove barriers that would otherwise prevent interaction with your website for people who may be differently abled, have some kind of disability or impairment. The objective is to allow all web users of all backgrounds to enjoy equal access to information and functionality.
Accessibility is actually achieved through a combination of website design practices and software features (sometimes known as assistive technology (AT), at both browser and operating system (OS) level, which help enable people with disabilities to fully understand, navigate, interact and contribute to the web.
WHY IS WEB ACCESSIBILITY IMPORTANT?
The internet plays an increasingly central role in everyday life for people’s employment, education and entertainment. So it is hoped that it must also be provided in a way that is accessible with equal opportunities for everyone.
Web accessibility is growing in importance as the UK population ages – although disability affects people of all ages and from all walks of life, the likelihood of being affected increases with age.
Around 6% of children in the UK are disabled, compared to 16% of working age adults, but this figure rises to 45% in adults over the state pension age – that’s around 11.6 million people.
Add this figure to the 10 million people registered disabled, and the two million with sight problems and that’s more than a third of the UK population for whom web accessibility is vital.
WHAT MAKES A WEBSITE INACCESSIBLE?
In order to properly determine whether your website is fully accessible, it’s worth considering a series of factors which may affect accessibility:
- Images without text descriptions cannot be interpreted by users who may be using text-to-speech software
- Text links which are not differently coloured, sized or underlined in some way may not be visible to users with colour blindness
- Clickable areas that are very small may be difficult for elderly users or people with motor impairments to navigate the site.
- Complex, technical and non-plain language may be difficult for those with dyslexia or learning difficulties to read and understand
- Videos without subtitles or sign language options are unintelligible to deaf or hard-of-hearing users.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF POOR WEB ACCESSIBILITY?
Website accessibility affects more than just the user experience: it can have a number of additional knock-on effects or your website including:
- Rankings and SEO Health – search engines may also experience accessibility issues when crawling the site, which in turn will affect a website’s rankings.
- Impact on other accessibility and maintenance – websites can often have poor accessibility in areas such as having a poor structure. This will likely present challenges for all visitors to navigate, including developers, making the site more tricky to maintain.
- Maximum device compatibility – in this modern digital world there are so many very different devices. Satisfying web accessibility also means satisfying a wide range of device as well as user needs.
WHAT ARE THE CURRENT WEB ACCESSIBILITY GUIDELINES?
The Web Accessibility Initiative is a branch of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which is an international web standards consortium, responsible for publishing a series of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to help website owners optimise for accessibility.
If you are interested in making your site accessible, we recommend reading more about Web Content Accessibility Guidelines on the Web Accessibility Initiative site.
UK law also takes into account web accessibility: the Equality Act 2010 requires that “reasonable adjustments” to be made to a website to ensure the content is “provided in an accessible format” for all users. Failure to do so could mean that a legal case is brought against the site owner as a result.
WHAT IS THE PROCEDURE FOR WEBSITE ACCESSIBILITY TESTING?
If you have concerns about your website’s accessibility and potential issues this may bring, we recommend considering an accessibility audit.
Our web development team here at Simon Antony have a great deal of experience testing websites for accessibility and can help you ensure your website complies with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and follows accessibility best practices.
We use both manual and automated testing techniques and tools to check a wide range of potential issues, some which may affect user accessibility, but we will also test how easy the site is to crawl and how compatible your website is across a realistic sample of the various devices currently in use.