What is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility is a series of methods used to increase the range of people who can engage with a website. It allows for people with disabilities to use a particular site, giving digital access to a broader range of users (and potential customers.) But how do we measure web accessibility?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was established to help regulate accessibility in public and government funded spaces. ADA officially only applies to the physical world, regulating accommodations such as power assisted doors and closed captioned television. With little else to go on, many complaints and lawsuits are using ADA regulations as a means to make sure people with disabilities are granted access to the world around them.
The digital world should be no different. Websites have become an integral part of everyday life. Compared to the physical world, websites aren’t greatly regulated and don’t include accessibility in their development. That means most websites aren’t actually removing barriers, but adding to them.
But regulations are changing…
In January 2017, Section 508 Refresh replaced the old guidelines with WCAG 2.0, applying regulations and guidelines to federal agency websites and other technology. While Section 508 Refresh outlines broad regulations, WCAG 2.0 defines guidelines on how to meet those regulations. For instance, Section 508 Refresh instructs organizations to make sure text is readable to those with poor eyesight, but WCAG 2.0 provides suggested steps for developers to make that text readable. International organizations use WCAG 2.0, making it the most comprehensive set of standards currently available. Some cities, states or countries may require additional guidelines.
Section 504 applies to schools, hospitals, libraries and other organizations receiving federal funding. Even though the vast majority of complaints filed against these types of organizations are measured against the more familiar set of regulations, ADA, we still stay up-to-date on changes to Section 504.
The Department of Justice currently relies on ADA to determine website compliance to digital accessibility. Though ADA is still focused on accommodations made to the physical world alone, it is the main set of regulations cited in complaints filed with both the Department of Justice and Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.
An understanding of both physical regulations such as those found in ADA, and the digital guidelines set by WCAG 2.0 are crucial to preventing problems before they start. Using these two standards, we can create websites that remove barriers for online users.
Increasing web accessibility is a process, not a one-time project. At Northwoods, our educated team of experts seamlessly include Accessibility methodology into each digital strategy plan.
1. Start with a Client Specific Plan—Specific needs of a client will inform the project, help us create guidelines, and define our team roles and responsibilities. This means that web accessibility is woven throughout the site, instead of being just a last-minute checklist.
2. Perform a Baseline Test and Create an Improvement Timeline—Testing against WCAG 2.0 Levels A & AA guidelines, both automated and manual, are made to find where improvements should be made. Since state and international guidelines can vary, all applicable guidelines are reviewed and tested. With this information, we set a prioritized timeline to tackle improvements.
3. Implement and Test—Using the timeline, our team fixes accessibility issues, testing them to make sure any and all site updates adhere to applicable guidelines. Because these guidelines change over time, we set up plans for future tests to make sure that everything is still meeting the standards.
4. Stay Ahead of the Curve– Accessibility compliance is a team effort: from user experience, visual design, development and content entry. We train our internal staff on accessibility, but we also help our clients create accessible content through training and style guides. Titan CMS is also a great tool for accessibility with several automated tests built in to help catch accessibility issues before content is published.
Ready to increase your user base?
Schedule a free evaluation to determine your website’s current accessibility level and learn how to expand your audience. Our evaluation includes strategies to improve the following areas:
Readability and color contrast of text
Alternative text for images
Audio and video components
Coding for a keyboard-only experience
Other improvements that will expand overall site usability
Schedule Your Evaluation (It’s free.)
For more information on Website Accessibility, take a look at our blogs, written by our in-house expert.