The Web is very rapidly replacing old forms of communication. It’s the main tool to access information in the XXI century. Not only news but culture, learning, jobs, the marketplace… The world. We are either connected or not. Almost everything is online and most operations require Web access. We share different content in different ways. But is the content we share accessible for everyone? And why this matters?
This matters because every human will – at some level – suffer, some kind of impairment.
How can we ensure that people with different categories of impairment (physical, visual, hearing, cognitive, neurological) are able to access the content we share without barriers?
Not only categories but also impairment temporalities (temporary, permanent and situational)?
How people with disabilities access web content?
Depending on the impairment, there are assistive technologies and or software adapted to capacitate those who need to access the Web. For more detail on the different impairments read How People with Disabilities Use the Web.
Some examples :
- Extra-large monitors and increase the size of system fonts and images.
- Screen magnification or screen enhancement software.
- Screen readers.
- Braille displays.
- Captions or transcripts.
- Specialized mouse.
- Voice recognition.
- Speech output.
- Scanning software.
To make our web content accessible we must care to learn how people with disabilities or impairments access the web. And, how content creators, web developers and designers can serve truly accessible content.
Digital accessibility is increasingly being taken by the governments and official bodies as a political and moral obligation. Under this premise, the U.S Department of justice set the example by implementing in 2010 the obligation of governmental and public companies to comply with ADA (American Disability Act).
In 2017 the EU published Directive (EU) 2016/2102. This directive made it compulsory for all the public official institutions and bodies to meet accessibility standards.
What are the Web accessibility standards and who regulates them?
Web standards are technical guidelines that specify the best practices to build accessible, operable and usable websites.
An open Web means everyone can access its content and, websites and apps are POUR (Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust). An essential concept for the democratic and equalizer spirit subjacent to the web.
Web standards are researched and developed by W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) an international organization whose submission process ensures high standard technical recommendations and specifications for the Web. Inside of W3C has then been created the WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) that produces a large body of documentation to help and guide technical and no-technical creators on how to make web content accessible and how to implement the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Another important open source project on the Web is the A11Y Project, which translates most of the WCAG guidelines plus benefiting from more direct community input, providing technical instructions and tools to understand and archive web accessibility.
How can you check if your website is accessible and meet web accessibility standards guidelines?
To test accessibility compliance there are free evaluation tools online that help to identify if the web content has accessibility issues or errors.
List of accessibility evaluation tools: https://www.w3.org/WAI/ER/tools/
I use the WAVE accessibility checker. This is a fantastic tool for anyone and especially for developers when troubleshooting.
In short: accessibility should be considered a priority for every project on the Web. The credibility and reputation of a web creator or online business it’s also attached to how they treat their public. How their content is accessible and readable by every user including those with impairments.
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