Web accessibility refers to the practice of using website design and development that removes obstacles of access or usability for people with disabilities.
At agencyQ, we keep current with accessibility guidelines and make WCAG 2.0 compliance a priority from the start for every relevant website development project to ensure our clients’ content gets seen by the widest possible audience and promotes equality of access to all users.
When sites are properly designed, developed, and managed, all users can have equal access to information and functionality. A good example of how web accessibility can merge with beautiful design can be found in our work on the STScI homepage.
Being able to access and navigate a site's information or sign up for services are things most people take for granted, but for many people with disabilities, how and if they can engage with a some websites is not assured. Web accessibility regulations, policies, and requirements look to resolve this issue by creating standardized accessibility guidelines for sites to adhere to.
It's important that site developers keep track of the relevant regulations regarding web accessibility, but by incorporating web accessibility measures from the early phases of development you can ensure that your organization's web properties are accessible to people of all ability levels.
What types of disabilities should be accounted for?
Here's a non-exhaustive list of disability types that should be accounted for when considering web accessibility:
- Low-vision or blind users
- Low-hearing or deaf users
- Users with cognitive disabilities
- Neurological disorders that cause people to avoid motion or flashing on screens
- People with temporary disabilities (maybe having an arm in a sling, frequent light-sensitive migraines)
Who do these regulations apply to?
The WCAG are internationally recognized guidelines for web accessibility that have been put into various laws and regulations in many countries around the world. In most countries, they require that government websites be accessible to all users, but in some countries like Norway and Australia, they require all websites both public and private to be made fully accessible. In the US, all federal websites and all websites for federally funded organizations are required to be WCAG 2.0 AA compliant.
Who regulates accessibility?
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is a volunteer-run organization that develops the international standards for much of the web technology in use. When it comes to accessibility, those standards are developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) within the W3C. The documentation they write, and the basis for how sites’ accessibility is judged are called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which are updated periodically. The most recent comprehensive overhaul was WCAG 2.0 in 2008, but WCAG 2.1 was released just this past June.
These guidelines are well-researched best practices to help the widest swath of possible users get the same necessary information on the web. They are also written to be descriptive, rather than proscriptive—they tell you what the end result should be, but not necessarily what you must do (technologically speaking) to meet the requirement. There are supporting examples of how developers might write code to meet the requirements, but in some cases, developers have leeway in the technology choices they make.
Here is an example of a requirement:
This states that users should be able to get the information they need from a website by keyboard and without the use of a mouse. In many cases, writing well formed, semantic HTML will meet this requirement without too much effort from designers or developers. However, web design can get tricky when working with certain elements like menus that are only revealed on mouse-hover. In these cases, developers have to also code their UI to make sure that all the menu information can be accessed with a keyboard.
We’re always happy to answer any questions our clients have about maintaining compliance during the design and development process, so feel free to reach out.