The internet should be available to all people, regardless of the technology they are using, their language, location, or ability and web accessibility is when this goal is met.
Web accessibility is achieved when websites, apps, and technologies are built so that people with disabilities or access issues can use them, but when these things are badly designed, this creates barriers that exclude people from accessing the digital world.
Web accessibility covers all disabilities that affect digital access.
Deaf user can’t always fully engage with your content, but plain English, clear navigation, multiple contact options and video can help users to understand what’s going on. However, developments are happening all the time to assist deaf and hard-of-hearing users, for example, the Signly app is a great resource for those who use British Sign Language as their first language, where pre-recorded sign language videos are displayed on a user’s mobile when they look at written content.
Your lovingly crafted content might not be so simple for a user with learning difficulties. However, making sure that your site is simple and easy to navigate makes a huge difference, as does ensuring it works well with screen readers, so that the user can have the site read out to them.
If someone has a condition which means they have low mobility and find typing and using a mouse difficult, users can use voice recognition software to command the computer to replicate mouse actions. However, this will only be an option if your site is built to ensure it works with this software efficiently.
Physical disabilities and chronic conditions can mean users struggle to use keyboards and a mouse. But this can be overcome, for example by setting up your pages and functionality so that someone who can’t use a keyboard or mouse can still use your site using an alternative input method.
A partially sighted user may need to use magnification software to control the size of text and graphics on the screen to be able to read it. This isn’t the same as using the zoom feature, these applications allow the user to have the ability to see the enlarged text in relation to the screen, in the same way that using a magnifying glass over the screen would.
Built with accessibility in mind, a digital service should remove barriers to communication and interaction that many people face in the physical world.
Additional Benefits to Accessibility
Web accessibility also benefits people without disabilities, for example:
- people using devices with small screens such as smartphones and watches, or those with different input modes, such as smart TVs
- older people with changing abilities due to ageing
- people who are experiencing temporary disabilities, such as a broken wrist
- people in situations that limit their access, for example in a quiet area where they can’t listen to audio.
- people with a poor internet connection
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), who have developed the internationally recognised Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) has created a video about accessibility perspectives which really gives context into the many situations where someone may struggle to access digital services. The film makes it clear why accessibility measures are for all of us, not only people with disabilities or special needs.
Mobile accessibility refers to making websites and other digital services are made more accessible to people with disabilities via smartphone and other devices such as tablets, digital watches, smart TVs and internet-enabled appliances. Mobile considerations include aspects such as small screen sizing, touchscreens, different input methods and the fact that these devices are often used in different environments, such as outdoors in bright sunlight.
More recently, the WCAG 2.1 Guidelines were released in order to keep up with technological advancements since WCAG 2.0 was created in 2008. WCAG 2.1 was introduced in June 2018, ten years after the original 2.0 guidelines.
The reason being was increased understanding of low vision and cognitive impairments and to incorporate the advancement of the mobile market, meaning other accessibility issues experiences on mobile browsers had to be incorporated. You can view a full list of the changes to WCAG 2.1 here.