“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”—Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web
Did you know that people with disabilities are still capable of browsing the internet?
It’s all thanks to The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organization of the World Wide Web. In 1997, W3C launched the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) in the U.S. to “promote and achieve Web functionality for people with disabilities.”
The Web has to be accessible to anyone—even for people who have difficulties with sight, hearing, movement, and cognitive ability. Through the help of assistive devices, like screen readers, disabled people like those with visual difficulties can understand a web page’s content easily.
In support for web accessibility
Unfortunately, there are obstacles in web design and development that make accessibility limited, or even impossible at times. For this reason, the WAI created a list of guidelines to help designers and developers create accessible websites. This list is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
There have been additional movements to increase accessibility standards on the web as well. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes access to information and communications technologies, including the web, as a basic human right. Countries such as the U.S., U.K., Australia, Brazil, Norway, and Ireland have already pushed for laws to regulate web accessibility.
Here in America, perhaps the most notable law enacted was Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 508 provided the first-ever U.S. federal accessibility standard for the internet. With this, state governments were also held accountable in implementing all conditions of Section 508. Moreover, businesses supplying electronic and information technology goods and services to the federal government were required to comply with the guidelines for website accessibility.
How to make your website accessible
Website accessibility is not as hard as you think it is. If your web design and development team has implemented a clean code, there will be minimal changes to do in your code. However, if you’re using website builders that don’t support screen readers or have implemented bad coding practices, you’ll have a hard time indeed.
- Businesses normally implement SEO on their pages, so writing ALT texts for images is a given. However, avoid spamming this with keyword content and focus on what an ALT text is—text that conveys the same information as the photo it is tagged to.
- Website accessibility is not just making your website readable by screen readers; it should be possible to navigate the website with the keyboard. This can help those with movement disabilities who find it hard to do fine motor skills such as mouse pointing and clicking.
- If you have podcasts or other audio files in your website, provide a transcript for it. Aside from helping those with hearing difficulties, it can also help search engines understand the content of your audio file.
- When creating content for a website, make sure to use simple words, rather than going too technical or too deep. Aside from those with cognitive difficulties, everyone can easily understand what you’re trying to say.
- Formatting your content is another thing you should fix. Consistent formatting helps screen readers go through your website’s content. Here’s a quick guide on the best practices on formatting web content. This guide will help you format your content, whether it is written or multimedia.
By John Stevens, CEO, Hosting Facts.