Web Content Accessibility
Learn about the importance of making your web content more accessible and inclusive for all of your website’s users.
The web has become so central to our lives that many people around the world today spend hours each day on average looking at screens on their digital devices searching for information, for work, or for entertainment.
According to WHO, around 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability. So, it’s important to ensure that both your website and your content allow people with disabilities or impairments to access and benefit from the same kind of user experiences that people without disabilities enjoy.
Making your website and web content accessible not only has ethical and commercial justifications but in some countries, there are also legal implications for not complying, especially if you are a nonprofit organization.
In this lesson, we look at:
- What Are Web Content Accessibility Guidelines?
- Ways To Make Your Web Content Accessible
Before You Begin
Please review the sections below before starting this lesson:
What Are Web Content Accessibility Guidelines?
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is an internationally recognized standard for making web content more accessible to people with disabilities. It was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an organization that works to develop web standards and technologies.
The importance of content accessibility cannot be overstated. With over 1 billion people living with disabilities worldwide, ensuring that web content is accessible to everyone is not only a moral imperative, but it also makes good business sense.
When web content is not accessible, it can exclude people with disabilities from accessing important information, services, and opportunities. This can lead to social isolation and discrimination, and can also result in lost business and revenue for companies that fail to make their content accessible.
On the other hand, when web content is made accessible, it benefits everyone. People with disabilities can fully participate in society and access the same information and opportunities as everyone else. It also helps businesses reach a wider audience and can improve search engine optimization (SEO).
WCAG covers a wide range of recommendations for making web content more accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities on desktops, laptops, tablets, mobile devices, wearable devices, and other web of things devices.
This includes accommodating people with blindness, low vision, and other vision impairments; deafness and hearing loss; limited movement and dexterity; speech disabilities; sensory disorders; cognitive and learning disabilities; and combinations of these.
There are three levels of conformance to WCAG: A, AA, and AAA.
- Level A is the most basic level and covers the minimum requirements for accessibility.
- Level AA is the next level and covers a higher level of accessibility.
- Level AAA is the highest level and covers the highest level of accessibility.
Following the guidelines can make your web content more usable to users in general. In some countries and jurisdictions, website owners can also be fined or sued for discrimination if their websites are found to be non-accessible to all users.
Different WCAG Versions
Just as the web is continually evolving, so too will the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
WCAG 2.1 is the most recent and relevant accessibility standard. Website owners are advised to start with WCAG 2.0 when allocating resources then step up to WCAG 2.1 to help more people with disabilities and reduce their future legal risk
WCAG 3 is currently a work in progress and will aim to address various types of web content including static content, interactive content, visual and auditory media, and virtual and augmented reality. The guidelines also address related web tools such as user agents (browsers and assistive technologies), content management systems, authoring tools, and testing tools.
WCAG 3 also introduces a new color contrast guide, called Advanced Perceptual Contrast Algorithm (APCA), and aims to replace the older WCAG 2.0 method, while providing a wider range of recommendations for making web content more accessible.
WCAG – Four Principles
Note: The section below was sourced from this article: Understanding The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
WCAG is comprehensive and detailed, but difficult to understand quickly.
WCAG consists of four broad principles with recommendations that website owners must take practical steps to satisfy in order for their web content to be considered accessible:
- Perceivable: Users must be able to perceive it in some way, using one or more of their senses.
- Operable: Users must be able to control UI elements (e.g. buttons must be clickable in some way — mouse, keyboard, voice command, etc.).
- Understandable: The content must be understandable to its users.
- Robust: The content must be developed using well-adopted web standards that will work across different browsers, now and in the future.
Web Content Accessibility Goals And Objectives
As mentioned above, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 provides a set of guidelines for making web content more accessible to individuals with disabilities organized into four principles.
These principles have the following goals and objectives:
- Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
- Provide text alternatives for non-text content, such as images and audio.
- Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia.
- Operable: User interface components and navigation must be operable.
- Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
- Provide users enough time to read and use the content.
- Understandable: Information and the operation of the user interface must be understandable.
- Make text content readable and understandable.
- Make the site appear and operate in predictable ways.
- Robust: Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
- Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.
- Adding alternative text to images and providing captions for videos to provide a more accessible experience for users with visual impairments.
- Making sure that all functionality can be accessed via a keyboard for users who cannot use a mouse or other pointing device.
- Providing clear and simple language and instructions for users with cognitive disabilities.
- Ensuring that website code is structured in a way that can be interpreted by a wide range of devices, browsers, and assistive technologies.
Let’s look at some more ways to make your content accessible and inclusive.
Ways To Make Your Web Content Accessible
According to leading digital accessibility solutions provider eSSENTIAL Accessibility,
“WCAG covers an exhaustive list of digital elements that can create barriers for people with disabilities. The guidelines address common barriers that prevent people from using digital platforms. Barriers can be tricky because unless they directly affect you, you might have an extremely difficult time knowing they exist.”
Source: What is WCAG?
Each of the four principles listed earlier provides a range of guidelines for making your web content more accessible and ensuring it complies with regulations. Click on each of the links above to view these recommendations.
Some examples of content-related areas covered in the WCAG include:
- Non-decorative images and images that serve a structural or navigation purpose must contain descriptive alternative text (alt-text), so visually impaired users can have an appropriate description of the image.
- The on-page text must be realizable without disrupting how the page displays, so people with vision disabilities can magnify the content and have an easier time reading.
- Pre-recorded and live video with audio content need to have captions for users who are deaf or hard of hearing.
- Pre-recorded audio content files need to have a written transcript. This is also helpful for users who can’t turn on the sound or are in a noisy environment and want to listen to an audio file.
- Form-entry tasks must not have time limits or must include an extended, lengthy time limit to accommodate people who need more time to fill out forms.
- Elements that display across multiple web pages (e.g. navigation, headers, footers, sidebars, etc.) must consistently show in the same areas of the website so regardless of which page users are on, they will always know where to find these.
- Users must be able to navigate your website without the use of a mouse. For example, users should be able to use the “tab” button on a keyboard to progress through any given page.
- All web pages must use a proper heading-level structure to allow users with screen readers to navigate easily through the content.
Web Accessibility Evaluations Tools
There are website accessibility evaluation tools you can use to determine if your web content meets accessibility guidelines and automatically help you handle many accessibility barriers.
In addition to the list provided in the above link, see this page to determine what kind of tool you need and how it can assist you: Selecting Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools.
Content accessibility is crucial for ensuring that everyone has equal access to information and opportunities online. WCAG provides a framework for making web content more accessible, and meeting these standards can benefit both individuals with disabilities and businesses.
Making your web content accessible not only makes your website more inclusive for all users and is a legal requirement in many countries, but it also helps to create a more inclusive and equal society.
This lesson provides an overview of the steps you need to take to make your web content accessible to all users.
Download the guides and checklists in the Resources section below and conduct a thorough audit of your web content to ensure that your website meets all web content accessibility guidelines
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) – This document covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible.
- WCAG 2.1 Compliance Checklist – A practical resource for meeting web content accessibility guidelines.
- Website Accessibility Evaluations Tools – This page provides a list of evaluation tools, software programs, and online services that can help you determine if your web content meets accessibility guidelines.
Visit our tools and resources section for additional courses, guides, and helpful tools and resources.
- 3 Important Reasons For Web Accessibility
- World Report On Disability
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
- Understanding The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
- Making WordPress Accessible: The Ultimate Guide To Website Accessibility
- Go to the lesson on How To Create A Content Strategy
- Return to Content Strategy Overview
- Begin the next module: Content Planning
- Return to the Course Outline
Image: Man reading braille