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Website accessibility is an issue that is becoming increasingly prevalent in today's society. If your website isn't accessible to all, you create an instant barrier to many users. You also risk alienating a whole demographic who could benefit from whatever product or service you offer. In addition to this, compliance with the regulations or standards specified in Website Compliance Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and ADA laws are now mandatory in many countries, so if your site is globally accessible, this is something you need to consider.
Lack of accessibility puts everyone at a disadvantage; the business, consumer, organization, and user all benefit from increased accessibility (not just a small minority of people, which is the assumption many people make). Contrary to popular belief, making your website accessible doesn't only include incorporating text descriptions, offering high contrast color schemes, audio description and increased font size options. Although it's not always practical and takes significantly more effort, implementing strategies to increase accessibility at the very beginning is crucial.
There are many tools available to you to help you maximize your website's accessibility. The best indicator of efficacy is to have a sample of people from each key demographic try to navigate their way around your site and then feedback on any problems they might encounter.
No one person or program is going to be able to identify every potential problem. The end-user should be your key focus throughout the web design process. It will certainly benefit you to allow as many users as possible with varied and diverse needs to test your website before it goes live.
There are automated solutions available that can scan your site for potential issues, including websites that allow you to input your existing domain, allowing them to check your site to ensure compliance with WCAG 2.1, ADA, Section 508, AODA, EN 301549, and IS 5568. There are also websites available that offer AODA training to ensure your organization remains diverse and inclusive. These resources include AODA Website Design, Development, Testing and Auditing.
The AODA requires that you must 'use reasonable efforts to ensure that your policies, practices and procedures are consistent with the core principles of independence, dignity, integration and equality of opportunity.' (Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act, 2005, Part II) .
From September 13th 2019, the AODA also requires that your website be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. You can remember this by using the acronym POUR.
Solutions for users within your web design could include using semantic markup for content to clarify what information is on the web page and reiterate the necessary details. Video captions and subtitles for the hearing impaired or those who don't have access to a quiet space to work could be something to consider. Text spacing for people with learning difficulties or cognitive issues and increasing the timeout period for slower readers or using text to speech options for those who can't read is also a good idea.
For people who only have access to limited or slower bandwidths, consider using low detail mode, which will be much faster to load and prevent buffering.
These web disability solutions will ensure web usability and compliance with multiple organizations requiring audit and certification for legal reasons.
There are some essential resources available at Accessibility Services Canada, including information about legislation, technical guides, design best practices, social media accessibility advice and accessibility awareness approaches.
Accessibility doesn't just benefit your consumer or boost your profits…
Many of the tools mentioned above can also be utilized for people in the workplace who spend a lot of time at their computer screens and are required to take regular comfort breaks.
How can you make sure you get all this right, first time?
If you use just one resource to ensure your website is a resounding success in terms of accessibility goals being met, then I would highly recommend visiting the The World Wide Web Consortium.
This site contains the most in-depth, comprehensive, industry-standard set of guidelines, including handbooks which are constantly being updated to reflect the minimum web design and application accessibility rules, regulations and laws.
This, in short, is what we're all hoping to achieve moving forwards, and as the W3C helps to facilitate this change, their standards ensure that 'all the crazy brilliance continues to improve a web that is open to us all' (www.w3.org).