Digital accessibility is not just a nice-to-have but a necessity for anyone providing digital services, products, or devices. With 20% of the world’s population experiencing some form of disability, neglecting Digital Accessibility means potentially alienating a significant portion of your target market.
A positive trend is emerging within businesses, with 78% confirming that Digital Accessibility is a priority for them – an increase from 68% in 2020. This can be attributed partly to the pandemic, which has increased reliance on digital formats for businesses and consumers.
Furthermore, EU member states must adopt the European Accessibility Act by 2019 to improve the internal market’s functioning for accessible products and services by removing barriers created by divergent rules across member states. The law must be implemented by June 28th, 2022 and enforced by June 28th, 2025.
Given the growing importance of Digital Accessibility, it is crucial to understand why it matters and how to make sure your digital services, products, or devices are accessible to all.
Accessibility is a concept that many of us are familiar with in the physical world, but it can be harder to understand how it applies to digital experiences. In short, Digital Accessibility is when a product, service, or device is designed with the needs of all users, regardless of their abilities, in mind.
To be accessible, digital products, websites, services, or devices must be able to be used independently by customers, regardless of their ability or circumstance. This includes considering issues such as hearing, visual impairment, speech difficulties, physical disabilities, cognitive impairment, learning disabilities, and neurological conditions, as well as temporary obstacles such as a broken arm.
Without Digital Accessibility, some customers may be forced to compromise their privacy and independence, such as giving someone else their banking information to make payments online. It’s important to remember that anyone can experience a temporary or permanent disability or obstacle at anytime, and Digital Accessibility benefits every user.
Making the digital world accessible is the right thing to do and benefits everyone. Here are some essential suggestions on how to make Digital Accessibility happen.
Accessibility And Usability: Intertwined Concepts
Accessibility and usability are two distinct concepts, but they are closely related. Improving the accessibility of your website for users with disabilities also improves usability for everyone.
For instance, making the text more readable by explaining abbreviations and avoiding jargon benefits people with cognitive, language, and learning disabilities and those using screen readers. Additionally, it makes the text more accessible for all users to read on a screen. In today’s fast-paced digital age, with users taking in a vast amount of information, it’s essential to make content easy to process and understand, with critical points and signposts highlighted.
Improving your website’s navigation structure, with clear link text and a streamlined sitemap, helps the visually impaired find the page they need. Still, it also supports all users in quickly accessing the information they need. Captions, for example, enable deaf individuals to understand video content, but they also allow all users to watch videos without sound, regardless of their location.
Including Alt text in images helps those using assistive devices understand the image’s purpose, but it also improves search rankings as it’s a vital part of Google’s SEO algorithms. This means that by including it, you can expect to see enhanced website traffic.
In conclusion, any improvements made to a website’s accessibility will provide additional benefits to usability, resulting in an overall improved user experience, which directly translates to success for your organization.
Why Digital Accessibility Should Be A Standard
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a disability is a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities.” The scope of disabilities is vast, and each type of disability, whether physical, visual, mobile, auditory, neurological, cognitive, medical, or psychological, requires different accommodations.
When it comes to digital products, the lack of access for users with disabilities is often more apparent and critical. Input, access, and navigation are almost entirely dependent on using a keyboard or a mouse, which may be uncomfortable or impossible for some individuals. For example, a person with arthritis may struggle to use a mouse, and a person with visual impairment will be unable to navigate a website without Alt text on images and buttons. In these instances, the individual will likely look for another digital service that is more inclusive.
As a provider of digital services, products or any digital experience, your responsibility is to ensure that your offer is inclusive. Failure to do so may result in losing valuable customers interested in your business. Implementing Digital Accessibility ensures that all users can access your digital content, improving the user experience, and ultimately leading to success for your organization.
The Consequences Of Poor Digital Accessibility
Poor Digital Accessibility can have a significant impact on website users with disabilities. Some of the critical areas where websites often fall short include:
- Poor colour contrast – 1 in 12 men are colour-blind, and website visitors who experience colour blindness or visual impairment will struggle to view content with low colour contrast ratios. This also affects users trying to read the website in bright sunlight or on a device with a low backlight.
- Lack of Alt text for images – Alternative text describes the image for visitors who cannot see them. The lack of Alt text can impact users with all levels of visual impairment, those who need to translate the content into a different language, or users with poor internet connections, where only the Alt text will be displayed.
- Lack of captions for videos – Captions for videos help add meaning and comprehension to videos of all kinds, whether a TV show streamed online or a demonstration video for a product. Notably, 80% of those who use captions on videos do not have a hearing impairment; it simply helps them process and remember the information they see. 50% of web users also believe that captions are essential, as they often view video content with no sound on their mobile devices while in public or around others.
- Unintuitive navigation tools – If the content within the website is not well-structured and organized conveniently, it can be difficult for all visitors to navigate, particularly those using screen readers or input devices other than a mouse. Users may not get beyond the homepage, get stuck on a specific section, or look elsewhere if they find navigating hard.
- Poor readability – Readability is one of the most obvious ways many websites miss the accessibility standard. Complex language, filled with jargon and long sentences, will alienate many readers and make the message hard to digest. Equally, bunched-up, dense paragraphs will likely put people off.
The Four Principles Of Web Accessibility
Web accessibility is about understanding the fundamental principles and applying them to all design decisions. There are four main principles of accessibility to consider when creating a website:
- Perceivability: Can your website be accessed through sight, hearing, and touch?
- Operability: Is your website compatible with a keyboard, mouse, or other technology?
- Understandability: Is the content of your website easy to understand, follow, and navigate? • Robustness: Does your website work across browsers and devices, and is it compatible with assistive technologies?
You can measure the accessibility of your digital product against the standards created by the W3C, a consortium led by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who is responsible for the invention of the internet. The WCAG standards themselves are not entirely accessible, which means that ensuring you have met every single measure can be difficult. A full accessibility audit and user testing is the best way to ensure your website is accessible to all.
Building Inclusive Design
Once you understand the importance of Digital Accessibility and the challenges your customers with disabilities face, the next step is to conduct an accessibility audit. An audit like WTA Studio’s will provide you with an accessibility score, a list of identified issues, and recommendations to guide you through the process.
Inclusive design not only improves your brand image but also caters to a more significant percentage of your target customers and contributes to a movement of accessibility efforts that make the world a better place. From a business perspective, accessibility and usability are now essential components of digital design to stay ahead of the competition. Accessibility guidelines are unique opportunities for you to reach and accommodate more of the market and improve your value to all customers. Don’t hesitate; make accessibility a central part of your digital presence and see the rewards.
Project Manager at WTA Process oriented tech enthusiast with a key eye on project metrics