Accessibility. It’s a buzz word that has been thrown around the web world quite a bit over the last few years. Some people have heard it mentioned, but many are still a little confused about what it is.
As the accessibility advocate and aficionado in the Spindogs frontend development team, building semantic and accessible websites has been Tegan's bread and butter. That’s why she's taken it upon herself to shed light on the matter. Check out our latest blog from Tegan on what is web accessibility.
‘Accessibility’ is an umbrella term used to describe whether a product or service can be used by people of all abilities. In the physical world, this includes ramps to help wheelchair users get into buildings and braille print which allow the visually impaired to read. You know those bobbly paving slabs by road crossings? Those are also put in place to aid visually impaired people by alerting them where they can cross the road safely. There is a lot of accessible design already built into our physical world, which we wouldn’t necessarily be aware of if we are fully-abled.
Accessible design can be built-in on the web too. We have the tools at our fingertips to create universal, inclusive experiences for everyone - all it takes is a slight shift of perspective and a little know-how!
Prior to Spindogs, I built and maintained a design system and CMS with the University of Bath, where accessibility was paramount and, by 2019, a legal obligation. I have carried out countless web accessibility audits for private and public companies, to help them evaluate what they can do to improve accessibility.
Over the past four years, I have trained myself on web accessibility by signing up to webinars and talking to other accessibility nerds on social media. That said, the most valuable training was the day I spent using the web with a screen-reader - that completely changes your perspective!
A FOR EFFORT
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG for short) is the world accessibility standard, written by the big dogs at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). There are three levels of conformance: A, AA and AAA, with one A for minimum effort, and three As for maximum effort. I think Level AA is just right – it’s flexible enough to allow brand personality and uniqueness, but featured enough that people with disabilities or impairments can access what they need.
The guidelines are, ironically, quite a dense, lengthy read, filled with legalese and vague wording. This has been done in an effort to maintain an official tone for regulations and legislation all around the world.
Plus, it needs to be future-proof for all the weird and wonderful things that us humans are yet to create.
In a nutshell, the guidelines cover four main principles: • Is it Perceivable? - What is this supposed to be? • Is it Operable? - How does this work?
- Is it Understandable? - What does this mean?
- Is it Robust? - Why doesn’t this work?
THE NUMBERS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS
There are five types of disabilities: visual, auditory, cognitive (learning and neurological), motor/physical, and speech disability. If you don’t have a disability or impairment yourself, you likely know someone who does. According to Scope’s disability facts and figures, at least 1 in 5 people in the UK have a long-term illness, impairment or disability (as well as many more with a temporary disability), which can have a huge effect on how people use your product or service.
WHAT WE CAN DO TO HELP
Here at Spindogs we have a wealth of experience creating accessible websites and applications for the public sector as well as for private organisations. Over the years, we have built up the knowledge base and toolkit required to analyse and report on a website’s accessibility shortcomings. We can then confidently recommend improvements and even fix the issues for you.
As professionals who are proud of the work we do, we will work with
you every step of the way to create a website that meets your desired accessibility level, whether that is A, AA or AAA. We consider accessibility a tool which encourages you to make better choices for the people that use your website. It also helps you focus on the things that really matter, like improving the web experience for everyone, regardless of their ability.
I am excited to bring my accessibility knowledge to the private sector, enlighten people and drive change from the inside. There are so many benefits to making accessibility a priority, from better SEO and broadening your audience to improving the usability for everyone and even improving a brand’s public image. I do it because it makes the world a better place, one website at a time.
“AT LEAST 1 IN 5 PEOPLE IN THE UK HAVE A LONG- TERM ILLNESS, IMPAIRMENT OR DISABILITY.”
If you want to know more about web accessibility and how you can make the changes to your website, get in touch, we'd love to chat!