What is web accessibility?
The process of designing and developing websites and web tools in such a way that people of varying abilities can perceive, interact, understand and navigate the web.
Making web content accessible to all individuals benefits the society and businesses alike. Standards of web accessibility, also known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, are defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Why do we need them?
The web, or the internet, has become an integral part of our lives. It encompasses all areas of our lives including economic, educational, social and professional. This makes it important that people with disabilities can have the same access to information and communication as everyone else.
How does it apply to you?
Making information accessible to everyone makes for a more just and open society for all of us. According to WHO (World Health Organization) around 15% of the world's population has some form of disabilities. This number continues to grow because of population aging and the rise in chronic conditions.
Around half the world's population is online (source: Invesp). That means that a large segment of the population online as of today, most likely suffers from some sort of physical, intellectual or some other form of disability. Designing or developing a website that cannot be accessed or navigated comfortably by a person with disabilities is denying access to a growing segment of the audience.
Imagine a visually impaired person living independently. The person can see, but needs thick glasses to be able to visually interact with the world. One day the person comes across your website.
Are the fonts big enough for the person to be able to read them? What about the color scheme used on your website? Will it strain the reader's eyes to read it?
How do people with disabilities use the web?
People with disabilities such as auditory, cognitive, physical, speech or visual interact with the web in variety of ways.
- People with varying degree of visual impairment rely on screen readers to 'read the web' for them.
- People with varying degree of physical impairment or senior citizens experiencing loss of dexterity from aging, who cannot use a mouse. Making the web accessible for them means making a website that does not rely on input from the mouse.
- People who cannot use the keyboard, due to their physical limitations, use assistive technology like speech input, to mimic the keyboard.
- People who are deaf or hard of hearing rely on text transcript when watching videos.
You can read more about this here.
Some tips for designers/developers to make the web accessible
- Provide sufficient contrast between text and it's background
- Clear designs, with easy to navigate menus
- Provide text alternatives, ie. ALT text for images that can be read by the screen readers
- Create different designs for different "viewports" - responsive web design.
To read more, follow this link.
Making the web accessible allows all users to have equal access to information. This makes resources available to everyone, irrespective of their varying abilities. Web accessibility provides better user experience for everyone.