The term “web accessibility” has popped into our lives and exploded onto the scene in recent years. But what does it actually mean? And how did it start? Let’s take a deep dive into the digital accessibility field and learn all about it.
What is web accessibility?
Simply put, “Web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them,” stipulates the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international community that is known for inventing the Internet.
Wikipedia defines web accessibility in broader terms: “the inclusive practice of ensuring there are no barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to, websites on the World Wide Web by people with physical disabilities, situational disabilities, and socio-economic restrictions on bandwidth and speed.”
As the W3C notes, the web was designed for all people, regardless of ability or disability. Whatever someone’s hardware, software, language, location, or disability, the purpose of the World Wide Web is to be accessible and welcoming to all people from all walks of life.
Organizations that wish to offer the best, high-quality websites for their users and customers must take into consideration accessibility standards so they do not exclude anyone from their website. At the end of the day, a loss of a user is a potential loss of a sale or a loyal customer.
Who needs web accessibility?
If we’re cheeky, we’ll reply by answering: everyone. But web accessibility is chiefly designed to address the acute needs of those with disabilities. The main disabilities are as follows:
- Visual - including blindness, color blindness, or impaired vision
- Motor/mobility - limitations on hand movements that impair the ability to use the mouse
- Auditory - hearing impairments that require captions for videos or alternative content for audio
- Seizures - this includes conditions such as photo-sensitive epilepsy
- Cognitive and intellectual - dyslexia, dyscalculia, or developmental disabilities may infringe an individual’s capacity to understand a web page’s content
Another group worth mentioning is the elderly. Although their impairments vary widely, age is definitely a factor in web browsing. As we all get older, some of our sensory capacities weaken, such as hearing, sight, mobility, etc. This is a large portion of the population that should be kept in the minds of reputable and socially-conscious businesses.
Remember, people with disabilities face many difficulties in the physical world. The digital nature of the World Wide Web was supposed to make their lives easier, simplifying activities such as shopping, studying, and consuming information. An impaired customer is more likely to become a long-life customer on your website for the simple reason that doing things online becomes a favorable habit, a natural part of his or her daily routine.
In other words, customers with disabilities are worth more for your organization’s digital services than customers without disabilities. This is something that’s worth remembering when opting to make your website accessible.
Web accessibility prevalence
Web accessibility and awareness for web accessibility have improved immensely in the last few years but, unfortunately, we’re still very far from achieving the original goal of the W3C—an online sphere open and accessible to all.
“[M]any sites and tools are developed with accessibility barriers that make them difficult or impossible for some people to use,” writes the W3C, adding “when websites, applications, technologies, or tools are badly designed, they can create barriers that exclude people from using the Web.”
Estimates on this vary greatly, but some research companies estimate that only about 5 percent of websites online are fully accessible.
Web accessibility laws
Web accessibility is required by law in many countries across the globe. In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standardizes compliance for web accessibility across the board, requiring businesses of all sizes to remediate their digital assets.
For the public sector, Section 508 compels government and state agencies to make their digital services accessible.
This is a huge topic, and we refer you to our Web Accessibility Laws page for comprehensive information. The bottom line though, web accessibility is not a privileged service or perk that companies would merely benefit from, it is an obligation under the law.
Those who do not remediate their websites are risking class-action lawsuits or expensive settlements that may be detrimental to the success of their long-term plans.
Click here for more information on ADA compliance.
Click here for more information on Section 508 compliance.
Web accessibility for business
Even though it is required by law, making your website accessible is a smart business move. Accessible design and content make for a satisfactory user experience, a service that is well sought after by major firms, startups, and technological leaders.
Also worth mentioning is that the online world is open to all kinds of people from all parts of the globe. The elderly benefit from web accessibility and inclusivity. People from the developing world benefit from accessible websites, as well as customers living in rural areas who prefer to do their shopping online than in physical stores.
According to data gathered by EqualWeb, organizations that introduced accessibility enhancement tools have registered an increase of hundreds of thousands of users on their websites.
How does web remediation work?
Some accessibility features are easy to understand and implement, such as adding alternative text for images (however, this does require time and effort on the part of the web designers). Other accessibility features are more complex and require expert programming.
Making the website compatible with screen readers for the blind is one prime example. Keyboard Navigation is another essential tool for achieving accessibility.
The remediation work includes everything from stopping the blinking of elements on a page, to featuring voice commands, adding saturation and contrast modes, and enabling content adjustment features like font sizing, line spacing, and word spacing.
Even when a website adds all of these elements, it still needs to feature an accessibility statement and a feedback tool for users to leave their impressions or complaints for future improvements.
To make it short, web accessibility is not easy; which is why most businesses prefer to outsource their solutions to companies that specialize in this field and provide cost-effective products and services.
The #1 web accessibility solution
The web accessibility remediation process is comprised of four essential steps:
- 1. Generating an accessibility code for the website
- 2. Implementing the code, which instantly introduces the EqualWeb AI ToolBar on the website—elevating most of its content to international accessibility standards
- 3. Accessibility experts use a highly efficient and scalable system, developed by EqualWeb, to fix the remaining accessibility issues on the site
- 4. Finally, EqualWeb uses its state-of-the-art monitor scan to periodically audit the website and scan for new issues
This is the only web accessibility solution in the market that fully protects businesses against potential lawsuits, meeting all ADA and WCAG 2.1 requirements.
Some vendors claim to provide 100 percent compliance by merely implementing an automated overlay on the website. This will always be false. Only a multi-layered solution like the one offered by EqualWeb can fully meet compliance standards. No less will do.
EqualWeb is the no.1 web accessibility solution that provides cost-effective, efficient, thorough, and smart digital remediation plans for any business need, fully complying with the law and providing equal access for individuals with impairments.
If you are interested to learn more, click here and check out EqualWeb’s Plans & Pricing page.