What is accessibility?
Accessibility is a growing concern in the UK. Before we can fully go into what web accessibility standards are and why they are important, we should all know what ‘accessibility’ actually means. We like to define it in the sentence “Accessibility means that everyone, regardless of their disability or impairment, can access services, products and from their devices”.
Simply put, web accessibility means that those with disabilities and impairments are able to access web services, information and products without limitation. In the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) it highlights that we have a duty of care to provide people with disabilities an online environment that is perceivable, operable, robust and understandable, making it easy to navigate and interact with the World Wide Web.
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Web Accessibility standards are in place for anyone who has a disability, regardless of the type of disability. It’s important to keep in mind that there are four categories of disability that are directly addressed and form the foundation for Web Accessibility Standards. Those are:
- Hearing Disabilities – Hearing loss is categorised as mild, moderate, severe and profound. Individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing will use different methods of communication including sign language and lip reading. WCAG highlights numerous ways that websites can communicate with those with hearing disabilities.
- Learning/Cognitive Disabilities – This is a broad category that focuses on the perception and processing of information and/or levels of developmental functioning. A person with learning difficulties or cognitive disabilities may have one or more associated conditions, including Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Dyslexia, Autism, Down Syndrome and others. WCAG explains how to make your website easier to understand for these users.
- Motor Disabilities – This category represents physical disabilities related to motor function of either the upper or the lower extremities. Some individuals with decreased mobility function may require assistance in many day to day tasks. The WCAG standards highlight how those with motor disabilities access and navigate websites and how to cater to these individuals.
- Visual Disabilities – Those with visual disabilities possess a varied level of sight. They are split into two categories depending on severity: Low vision and Total Blindness. WCAG web accessibility standards reveal how blind users access your website and how to tailor the User Interface and the content to their needs.
What are Web Accessibility Standards?
Now that you’re aware of the disabilities that need to be considered, you need to understand why it’s important to follow the Web Accessibility Standards that have been outlined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The W3C is an international body led by the inventor of the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee. It includes a number of members in the web world who are influential and knowledgeable. They decide standards based on what is considered to be best practice.
Back in 1998, the W3C published the first Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, a set of Web Accessibility Standards that highlighted the best practices for creating content for the web. This has been amended to reflect the changes that have occurred since then. You can read A Simple Guide to the Expected Outcomes of WCAG 2.0 and the changes made recently to accommodate the huge shift toward mobile devices in WCAG 2.1 Changes Explained.
Why are the Web Accessibility Standards important?
At Shaw Trust Accessibility Services, we believe that there is nothing more important than giving equal opportunities to everyone. You can read more about the Shaw Trust history on our About Us page. Without our team of disabled user testers, we would not be able to offer such a valuable product to all of our clients. They are the reason behind Shaw Trust Accessibility Services, to provide better access to a wider audience. We can show you how integral those with disabilities are to society and encourage you to keep an open mind when you’re making your next employment decision.
Why should anyone be denied access to digital services simply because they require assistive technology? Would you stop someone wearing glasses from entering your store? No. So why are you missing out on the online spend of millions?
This is why Web Accessibility Standards are essential, it gives those who use screen readers, voice navigation, one-handed keyboards and other forms of access methods the opportunity to use digital services in a way that suits them. In a survey by Business Disability International, Click-Away Pound, it was revealed that more than 71% of disabled people will exit a website if they find it difficult to use. Whilst this is a good starting point, it’s not the only reason you should be accessible and why the standards are important.
The morality of not being accessible is partly covered above, but do you want to be the organisation who isn’t tailoring your digital services to those with access issues? It is your responsibility to be able to offer your digital information and services to everyone. Accessibility is not ‘special treatment’ it’s equal treatment.
We like to put it this way: the odds of us being alive, as we are, holds the same probability as 2,000,000 people rolling a dice simultaneously and have it land on the same number. When each and every individual is that special, why should we label a group of humans and have it so they can’t access something online, surely everyone has a right to access your information and services?
Social media is also a great tool for building a community and sharing information about access, allowing people to talk about experiences they’ve had in the past and share information quickly with others, yet some platforms still remain inaccessible and very difficult to use. There is a social media account, @DontWantOurCash, who will publicly name and shame your business for not being accessible. This could completely destroy a brand’s reputation with the disabled community and initiative of this kind are popping up all over the place. There is an inclusion revolution on the horizon. Do you want to be ahead, leading the way and supporting the campaign or behind being targeted by it?
Whilst it’s important to understand the moral implications of not making a website accessible, it’s also damaging from a profitability point of view. With 1 in 5 people having a disability, you’re ignoring a total spending power of £249 billion worldwide. If you’re a global business, that’s a lot of profit that is potentially lost to those competitors who are ensuring that they’re accessible.
Even if you’re not an international organisation, the UK’s disabled spending power is thought to be as much as £11.75 billion. This is around 10% of the total UK online spend in a year. This is a considerable loss of profits.
Web Accessibility Standards have set the bar for legal requirements, in recent years, with a number of laws across the world referring to the WCAG standards and highlighting that you must be compliant with these standards.
Worldwide, there are 43 current laws and policies that relate to accessibility. Whilst some are digital specific such as the UK’s Public Sector Accessibility Regulations, which highlights that all public sector digital services should be accessible, there are others such as the United States’ Americans with Disabilities Act that covers access to everything, both physical and digital.
By discriminating against those with disabilities, you are also in breach of other wider legislation such as the Equalities Act 2010, Disability Discrimination Act and the Human Rights Act which collectively highlight that discrimination against any person is not permitted and that everyone should have equal rights to information regardless of their ability.
We understand that it can feel like a minefield when you are faced with making global changes to your website, especially when it affects other workflows and departments. You can make some small changes to the way you edit your website which will make all the difference. You can make small incremental changes that will have a positive impact.
If your organisation needs assistance in becoming accessible and you want to know more about Web Accessibility Standards, we would love to help. Get in touch with us today to find out exactly how we can help you.
Better still, introduce an accessibility champion into your organisation and get things moving in the right direction.