Picture this: you're eagerly trying to enter a contest on your favorite website using your mobile device. You've filled out the form, but there's just one problem: the "Submit" button is so tiny that it's nearly impossible to tap accurately. Frustrating, right? That's where web accessibility comes in. It's not just a buzzword; it's a game-changer for inclusivity online. Web accessibility ensures that individuals with disabilities can navigate, interact with, and comprehend digital content effortlessly. In this article, we'll dive into the world of web accessibility, unraveling the regulations, guidelines, and principles that empower a more inclusive web for everyone.

Website Accessibility Defined

Web accessibility refers to the inclusive design and development of websites and web applications that enable equal access and usability for people with disabilities. It ensures that individuals with diverse abilities, including those with visual, auditory, physical, cognitive, or neurological impairments, can perceive, navigate, interact with, and understand the content and functionality of digital platforms.

Section 508

One of the key regulations governing web accessibility in the United States is Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 508 requires federal agencies to ensure accessibility of their electronic and information technology (EIT) for people with disabilities. It mandates that federal websites, web applications, and other digital resources should be made accessible, guaranteeing equal access for all individuals. Section 508 sets the standard for modern web accessibility regulation, emphasizing the importance of ensuring that digital content is accessible to everyone.

WCAG and the 4 Principles of Accessibility

Another crucial framework for web accessibility is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), WCAG provides a set of internationally recognized guidelines for creating accessible web content. WCAG offers a comprehensive approach to web accessibility, outlining techniques and success criteria to ensure that digital content meets the following four fundamental principles:

  1. Perceivable: Web content should be presented in a way that users can perceive it through different senses. For instance, providing alternative text for images and captions for videos, ensuring sufficient color contrast, and making content accessible to screen readers.
  2. Operable: Users should be able to navigate and interact with web content using various input methods, such as a keyboard or assistive technologies. Websites should be designed to be easily navigable, allowing users to find information quickly and interact with elements without obstacles.
  3. Understandable: Web content and its functionality should be clear and easily comprehensible. This involves using plain language, providing clear instructions, organizing content logically, and avoiding complex design elements that might confuse users.
  4. Robust: Web content should be designed to work reliably across different platforms, devices, and assistive technologies. It should be compatible with various web browsers and assistive tools, ensuring that users can access and interact with the content effectively.

Why Website Accessibility Matters

Web accessibility is not only a matter of ethical consideration; it is also crucial for ensuring equal access and usability for all individuals. By making websites and web applications accessible, we empower a wide range of demographics that commonly have disabilities. Additionally, accessibility is not just a good practice but a legal requirement for some businesses.

Common Demographics with Disabilities:

To understand the significance of web accessibility, let's consider the following demographics that commonly have disabilities:

  • Older People: As the population ages, the number of older individuals accessing the web continues to grow. Aging often brings visual, auditory, and cognitive impairments, making web accessibility essential for ensuring that older users can fully engage with online information and services.
  • People with Visual Impairments:
    • Blindness: Individuals who are blind rely on screen readers to convert text into synthesized speech or braille output. Web accessibility ensures that websites are properly coded with text alternatives for images and meaningful links and headings for accurate navigation.
    • Low Vision: People with low vision have partial sight and may use screen magnification software or browser settings to enlarge content. Web accessibility includes providing resizable text, adjustable contrast, and avoiding fixed layouts to accommodate users with low vision.
    • Color Blindness: Color-blind individuals may have difficulty distinguishing certain color combinations. Web accessibility involves using sufficient color contrast and additional visual cues beyond color alone to convey information effectively.
  • People with Auditory Impairments:
    • Partial Hearing Loss: Individuals with partial hearing loss may require captions or transcripts for multimedia content, ensuring that they can access the audio information through text.
    • Deafness: People who are deaf rely on visual content, such as transcripts, sign language videos, or visual notifications, to access information that would typically be conveyed through sound.
  • People with Physical and Cognitive Impairments:
    • Physical Impairments: Web accessibility includes accommodating individuals with physical disabilities who may have difficulty using a mouse or keyboard. Providing alternative input methods, such as keyboard navigation, voice control, or switch devices, ensures access for all users.
    • Cognitive Impairments: Clear and simplified web content, consistent navigation, and easy-to-understand instructions are crucial for individuals with cognitive impairments, including those with learning disabilities or memory difficulties.

Legal Considerations

While there is no universal legal enforcement for web accessibility, certain regulations and requirements apply to specific entities. In the United States, government websites are subject to Section 508 compliance, which mandates accessibility for federal agencies. Additionally, many businesses that fall under the scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) must meet website accessibility requirements to ensure compliance. Although not legally mandated for all websites, the absence of accessibility measures can potentially lead to costly lawsuits.

In various countries, laws and regulations have been established to mandate accessibility for certain entities, particularly those receiving public funding or operating in specific sectors. By proactively embracing web accessibility, businesses and organizations not only fulfill their legal obligations but also unlock numerous benefits. Accessible websites expand their potential customer base by including individuals with disabilities, enhance user experience for all users, and demonstrate a strong commitment to inclusivity. It is important to recognize that while legal enforcement may vary, the alternative of facing an expensive lawsuit due to accessibility barriers remains a valid concern.

Making Your Website Accessible

Ensuring web accessibility is an ongoing process that involves making necessary modifications and improvements to websites and web applications. For organizations seeking to enhance accessibility, various options are available in the form of web accessibility remediation services and website accessibility tools.

Accessibility Remediation Services

One approach to web accessibility remediation is to hire professionals who specialize in web accessibility. These experts possess the knowledge and experience to identify accessibility barriers and implement appropriate solutions. They can conduct thorough accessibility audits, assess the website's compliance with accessibility guidelines such as WCAG, and provide recommendations for necessary modifications. Additionally, they can assist in making changes to the website's design, content, and functionality, ensuring that individuals with disabilities can access and interact with the digital content effectively. Hiring professionals can be a comprehensive and effective way to achieve web accessibility, particularly for complex or large-scale projects.

Website Accessibility Tools

Another option for web accessibility remediation is to leverage website accessibility tools and subscription-based widgets. These tools are designed to assist organizations in identifying and addressing accessibility issues on their websites, providing accessible features and functionality.

Website accessibility tools are like handy assistants that automatically scan web pages, detecting potential accessibility barriers and generating reports that highlight areas requiring improvement. These tools cover various aspects, including image alt text, heading structure, color contrast, keyboard accessibility, and more. By utilizing these tools, organizations gain valuable insights into their website's accessibility performance, enabling them to take appropriate actions to improve accessibility.

Subscription-based website widgets offer an alternative approach. Think of them as customizable accessibility add-ons that can be easily integrated into websites. These widgets come with a range of accessibility features such as text-to-speech functionality, adjustable font sizes, contrast adjustments, keyboard navigation options, and more. Subscribing to an accessibility widget allows organizations to enhance their website's accessibility without extensive development or coding efforts. The widgets dynamically apply accessibility features, providing users with customizable accessibility options that suit their individual needs.

Screenshot of an accessibility widget on the DiscoverTec website homepage, allowing users to customize certain features to better accommodate their unique needs.

Popular web accessibility vendors offering website accessibility tools and subscription-based widgets include accessiBe, UserWay, EqualWeb, and AudioEye. These vendors provide user-friendly solutions that help organizations address accessibility barriers effectively.

While website accessibility tools and subscription-based widgets offer automated features to enhance website accessibility, it is important to evaluate their effectiveness, compatibility with various assistive technologies, adherence to accessibility standards, ongoing support, and pricing models. Integrating these tools and widgets into the web accessibility remediation process, alongside manual checks and expert guidance, can result in a comprehensive approach to improving web accessibility.

DiscoverTec is Here to Help

Ready to enhance your website's accessibility and provide an inclusive digital experience for all users? Contact DiscoverTec today for a comprehensive accessibility consultation and to learn about our professional remediation services. Our team of experts specializes in web accessibility and can help you identify accessibility barriers, implement necessary modifications, and ensure compliance with accessibility standards.

Published on: June 09, 2023 by Ryan Brooks, Senior Web Marketer