What is website accessibility and how to make your website accessible?

What is website accessibility and how to make your website accessible?

While over 1 billion people worldwide suffer from various types of disabilities, these conditions do not prevent them from being active internet users.

The goal of website accessibility is to make websites more user-friendly and intuitive for people who have visual, hearing, motor, or cognitive disabilities or limitations. In other words, the goal of website accessibility is to ensure that users who have limitations mentioned above can have the same user experience as those who don’t have limitations.

Website accessibility refers to a set of best practices that are put in place during the web design process. However, any resource can be made accessible even if they were not originally designed with accessibility best practices in mind. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), first outlined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 1998, are the official, formal standard for website accessibility. WCAG, like other W3C-developed internet standards, is an internationally recognized set of rules, recommendations, and best practices for implementing website accessibility.

The key principles of website accessibility.

The four main principles of website accessibility are Perceivability, Operability, Understandability, and Robustness.

1. Perceivability

Most users associate a website’s perceivability with their ability to comprehend information visually. However, visually impaired users may struggle to perceive information in the same way. As a result, they frequently rely on accessibility aids like magnification tools or screen readers. Using contrasting colours, legible text, and alternative methods of presentation for time-based media, an accessible website should support such aids while also being easily perceivable on its own.

To optimize your website for increased perceivability you can include alternative text, utilize a strong colour contrast, make your website accessible to screen readers etc.

2. Operability

The operability of a website refers to how simple it is to use and navigate. Most users employ a keyboard, mouse, or touchpad; however this is not always the case for people with motor disabilities. Instead, such users may rely on specific tools and methods to operate a computer or any other device, such as only using the keyboard for navigation, controlling the device through speech, or using a trackball or joystick instead of a mouse. You can improve your website’s operability by avoiding content that blinks or flashes rapidly as it may cause an epileptic seizure, implementing a keyboard-only navigation, and making your website structure clear and easy.

3. Understandability

Understandability of a website describes how simple it is to understand the content and meaning of the website. It is an important principle in website accessibility because it caters to users who may have certain mental or cognitive limitations and may struggle to understand the content of a website if its language and presentation are overly complex or confusing. Here’s how to optimize your website for understandability: write straightforward content and implement a logical website structure.

4. Robustness

A website’s robustness, also known as responsiveness, refers to the more technical aspects of website accessibility. In other words, it refers to how “accessible” the website’s code is and how well it works with the software and hardware tools commonly used by people with disabilities when browsing the internet. Screen readers, speech input software, and other similar tools fall into this category. Optimizing for robustness or responsiveness entails making your website compatible with what the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) define as various “user agents” — tools for accessing web content, such as web browsers or certain assistive technologies, such as the screen readers mentioned above.

To evaluate website accessibility of your website you can use of the following tools:

  • Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool (WAVE), a free tool that can help you to perform a basic evaluation of your website’s accessibility features.
  • Accessibility Checker will help you to perform a more thorough accessibility audit of your website.
  • A11Y Color Contrast Accessibility Validator is the more laser-focused tool to evaluate the colour contrast of your website’s interface.

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