What is Website Accessibility and Why Does it Matter?

What is Website Accessibility and Why Does it Matter?

In today’s world, social media is not just a part of our everyday lives; it’s a vital tool for businesses aiming to thrive and expand. With billions of active users across various platforms, the potential for brand exposure and customer engagement is enormous. This blog post delves into how social media marketing can fuel business growth, offering strategic insights and actionable tips to utilize these platforms effectively.

What is Website Accessibility?

Website accessibility ensures that websites are designed and developed so all people, including those with disabilities, have equal access to information and functionality. This includes ensuring that digital content, website interfaces, and navigation are designed for auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, and visual disabilities. In short, accessibility means that the internet is for everyone.

For businesses, this practice not only enhances user experience but also caters to a broader audience, thus potentially increasing site traffic and engagement. Integrating accessibility reflects corporate social responsibility and can improve the company’s public image. If you care about people and their experiences, website visitors will notice your efforts and put their trust in your brand.

Website Accessibility as a Legal Obligation

Beyond being a good business practice and an ethical obligation, website accessibility is also a legal requirement under various national and international laws. In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that all electronic and information technology, such as websites, must be accessible to people with disabilities.

A notable case is the 2017 lawsuit against the supermarket giant, Winn-Dixie. The court found that Winn-Dixie’s website was not accessible to individuals with visual impairments and thus violated the ADA. The court issued an injunction requiring Winn-Dixie to make its website accessible and to pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees. This landmark ruling set a precedent that websites must be accessible, and demonstrated that making a website accessible is part of a business’s obligation to provide equal access to all customers, regardless of disability.

W3C and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

So, who’s responsible for deciding what’s “accessible?” That would be the W3C. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web. This organization has worked relentlessly over the years to ensure that the internet is an accommodating place for all people, and they have established a comprehensive set of standards to bring their vision to life.

The W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are part of these standards and provide a framework for making web content more accessible to people with disabilities. WCAG is recognized globally and serves as a benchmark for web accessibility, with guidelines that are regularly updated to meet new technological challenges and user needs.

WCAG Standards: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, & Robust

Though the WCAG in its entirety is a daunting read, the kind folks at W3C structured them in a way that’s easy to remember: POUR. This acronym represents the four pillars to build a website upon in order to ensure that its content is accessible for all people.

Perceivable

It’s super important for your site visitors to encounter information that is easy for them to recognize and understand. This includes providing text alternatives for non-text content, creating content that can be presented in different ways without losing information, and making it easier for users to see and hear content.

Operable

Making a website operable means giving visitors the ability to interact with the site without disruption. They should be able to use each part of the site’s functionality without difficulty. Every component of the website should be considered, from menu navigation, to fillable forms, to interactive media.  

Understandable

Your website content must also be easy to understand. This means making text clear and legible, making content appear and operate in intuitive ways, and helping users avoid and correct mistakes. Always keep in mind that people with cognitive disabilities will visit your website. Keep your content digestible, organized, and easy to navigate.

Robust

Content must be robust enough to be interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. This means ensuring compatibility with current and future user tools. These may include tools like screen readers, screen magnifiers, and voice recognition software. Click here to learn more.

How to Improve Your Website’s Accessibility

Improving website accessibility involves a variety of strategies, including:

  • Alt Text: Use alt attributes on all images to provide a text alternative that describes the image content.
  • Contrast and Colors: Ensure that text contrasts with background colors sufficiently to be seen by someone with color blindness. Tools like the Color Contrast Analyzer can help with this.
  • Keyboard Navigation: Make sure that all interactive elements are operable through keyboard-only inputs, which benefits users who cannot use a mouse.
  • Descriptive Labels: Use clear and descriptive labels for all forms and controls. This is particularly helpful for voice recognition software and screen readers.
  • ARIA Landmarks: Use ARIA roles and landmarks to identify the organization of the page to assistive technologies, such as screen readers.
  • Predictable Features: Design the pages of your website to be intuitive, so that users can know what to do next without disruption.
  • Write Good Copy: Always use correct spelling, punctuation and grammar so that users clearly understand your content (even people who predominantly speak another language).

Web Accessibility Tools

To maintain and improve accessibility, consider using some of the following tools:

  • WAVE: The WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool provides visual feedback about the accessibility of your web content by highlighting both strengths and areas needing improvement.
  • Google Lighthouse: This automated tool is part of Google Chrome’s Developer Tools and can audit the accessibility of a web page, providing a checklist of actions that can enhance accessibility.
  • Axe Accessibility Checker: This browser extension is useful for identifying and fixing accessibility issues directly within your browser.

The Internet is for Everyone

Making your website accessible is not just a legal obligation—it is a crucial aspect of creating an inclusive digital presence that welcomes all users. By embracing accessibility, you can enhance your brand, reach more customers, and demonstrate your commitment to inclusivity.

Are you ready to ensure your website is accessible and inclusive? Contact Britt Creative today for a detailed website audit and expert website design and development services that prioritize accessibility and user experience.

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