Demystifying What Is Accessibility in Web Development: Craft Inclusive Online Experiences
Aug 17, 20238 min read
Michał is a highly skilled Business Development Manager with a passion for the intersection of medical technology and cutting-edge technology. When he's not working, Michał can often be found enjoying a good movie or hitting the trails for a hike.
Imagine you're browsing a web page, as you do every day - let's say you need to find information about bus schedules or make an appointment at the dentist's office. It takes a long time to load, but you remain patient and keep waiting because you really need to get it over with. After some time, the content finally loads, but it is too dark to be readable, and everything is thrown together illogically.
This is the reality today for many people with disabilities. You can always find an alternative website, but for people with permanent health limitations, most of the Internet is pretty inaccessible.
In a world where online presence shapes our lives, web accessibility should be a key pillar of modern web development. Yet, despite our tech-savvy world, accessibility gaps remain pervasive. Research reveals startling statistics: 86.4% of home pages suffer from low contrast text, and on average, websites exhibit around 110 accessibility errors per page.
People with disabilities, who make up a sizable section of the world's population, frequently struggle to access and engage with digital material. This situation underlines the need for reform and building a digital environment that promotes inclusion, equitable access, and smooth user experiences for all.
If you want to understand what is accessibility in web development, stay with us. This article examines the nature of web accessibility in development, its meaning, principles, practices, and impact on digital experiences.
What is Accessibility in Web Development?
The internet has developed into a very useful tool in a variety of areas of our life, including school, employment, government business, shopping, health, leisure activities, and many more. Web accessibility embodies the practice of designing and developing web pages, tools, and technologies to ensure universal access. This means that every person, regardless of disability or ability, can seamlessly interact with digital content.
Making a website accessible means including elements like video subtitles and descriptions for videos, using larger font and clear colors, and making buttons and links simple to navigate. All of this ensures that everyone may enjoy themselves while using the internet. You need to think about layout and navigation, too.
But there's more to it than being inclusive; there's also a good business purpose.Consider this: when websites are accessible for everyone, everyone is content. No matter what device you use or how old you are, an inclusive web design improves the user experience. Your brand gains momentum, fresh concepts emerge, and more people become aware of your offerings.
Web accessibility covers different kinds of disabilities, and they can be grouped into four main categories:
Physical Disabilities: These involve issues like not being able to move your body well, such as paralysis.
Intellectual Disabilities: Problems that might affect how someone learns or understands things, like developmental delays or Down's Syndrome.
Mental Health Conditions: These are about mental disorders like depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia.
Sensory Issues: This category is about losing or impairing various senses, like not being able to hear or see properly.
And when it comes to how these disabilities affect people, there are three ways:
Permanent Disabilities: These are lasting conditions.
Temporary Disabilities: These are short-term issues, like when you break an arm.
Situational Disabilities: These happen in certain situations, like when someone can't listen to audio content because of background noise.
So what is accessibility in web development? And who is it targeted at? It isn't just for people with disabilities, but for all of us. It's also for people who might have a hard time using the web because of certain situations they're in, like losing reading glasses, using a smartphone screen that's too small, or having a slow internet connection. Another example is older people may have a harder time hearing or seeing things online because of their age.
As our population ages, online businesses need to think about these challenges and make their websites more user-friendly for everyone.
Why Accessibility Matters: Equality, Legal Imperatives, and User Experience
When it comes to creating content on the web, incorporating accessibility practices is an expression of compassion for your customers, clients, and connections. By aiming for clarity and accessibility in your content, you demonstrate your care for the diverse audiences that engage with your brand online. This care extends to recognizing and removing accessibility issues that some of your audience may face. An equitable experience for all becomes a non-negotiable goal, furthering the larger mission of promoting inclusivity across the digital landscape.
Disability is a universal facet of human experience that touches each of us at some point—through aging, illness, or injury. Within the scope of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts, disability is a dimension that transcends demographics, impacting everyone. As such, prioritizing accessibility aligns naturally with broader DEI initiatives, echoing a commitment to create an environment that serves all members of society.
The "curb-cut effect," articulated by author and disability rights activist Ladau, shows well the essence of universal accessibility. Originating as a solution for wheelchair users, curb cuts have evolved to benefit more people —those using baby strollers, shopping carts, wheeled suitcases, and more. This concept emphasizes that accessibility extends beyond specific categories; it enriches experiences for everyone. So, focusing on accessibility isn't just an act of consideration; it's a strategic decision that resonates with the innate desire to foster inclusivity and embrace diverse perspectives.
While social media content is often thought of as a realm of leisure, its role in health, safety, and emergency communications should not be underestimated. Governments, political leaders, and emergency services around the world rely on social media as a critical channel for disseminating critical information during natural disasters, medical emergencies, and life-threatening events. The accessibility of emergency content becomes a matter of life and death. By ensuring that this content is accessible, we protect the well-being of countless lives that depend on these platforms for timely and accurate information.
From a marketing vantage point, accessibility goes hand in hand with business objectives. When aiming to reach a wider audience, your message should resonate with as many individuals as possible. By choosing accessibility, you unlock the potential to engage a broader spectrum of consumers and convert them into active participants, customers, or advocates. Neglecting accessibility translates to excluding a significant portion of your audience, limiting potential conversions, and forfeiting valuable connections.
The realm of legality and compliance further highlights the significance of accessibility. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates accessibility requirements in the United States, resonating with the principle of non-discrimination based on disability. The idea is to focus on the digital platforms and applications, as to emphasize the need for equal access in the virtual realm. Similar initiatives are surfacing globally, indicating a growing consensus on the importance of digital accessibility.
As digital professionals and businesses navigate this landscape, there is a specific guide that can help them make their website accessible. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) offers a compass for achieving accessibility standards. By following these guidelines, digital content creators can ensure that their efforts meet updated global standards. As we progress, accessibility is poised to become a cornerstone of digital communications, underpinned by compassion, legal responsibilities, enhanced user engagement, and a commitment to inclusivity.
But what exactly is WCAG and how to follow it? Read more to learn about it.
Core Principles of Web Accessibility: POURing the Foundation
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG lay the foundation for universal web accessibility through four core principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (POUR). These rules are not mere technical jargon; they are the pillars that uphold an inclusive user experience.
Each principle, from ensuring content is easily perceivable to creating interfaces that are operable across devices, contributes to the holistic goal of web accessibility.
Perceivable: At the heart of web accessibility liesthe principle of perceivability.It beckons content creators to make sure that information and multimedia elements are perceptible by all users, regardless of their abilities. This principle urges the use of clear text, vibrant visuals, and alternative descriptions, enabling those with varying sensory capacities to fully engage with the content. The digital landscape becomes a welcoming space where people can enjoy the richness of online experiences without the barriers of accessibility.
Operable: The operability principle underscores the importance of creating interfaces that are intuitive and easily navigable. This means that interactive elements, such as buttons and menus, should be designed in a way that allows users to engage with them using diverse input methods—whether it's a mouse, keyboard, or touch screen. When you adhere to operability, digital architects construct bridges that connect users to their desired destinations, irrespective of their chosen path.
Understandable: Complexity need not be a hurdle to inclusivity. The understandable rule advocates for content that is presented in a clear, concise, and coherent manner. It encourages the use of straightforward language, logical organization, and intuitive layouts. When content is comprehensible to all users, regardless of their cognitive abilities or digital literacy levels, the barriers that often hinder engagement are dismantled, and the essence of the message shines through with clarity.
Robust: In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, robustness is the basis of resilience. The robust principle guides content creators to craft digital experiences that remain functional and accessible across a diverse array of platforms, web browsers, and assistive technologies. Thanks to it, digital content addresses the limitations of specific technologies, guaranteeing that its relevance and accessibility endure the test of time and progress.
Creating Accessible Web Content: Unveiling the Techniques
Creating content that meets diverse needs is at the heart of web accessibility. From the strategic use of headings to providing alternative text for images and multimedia, every element plays a role in building an inclusive experience. Captions for video and clear color choices improve accessibility, while keyboard navigation and screen reader compatibility are the core examples of web inclusion.
Why don’t we provide you with practical advice as to how to make a website accessible? Delve into our top picks of techniques needed for creating a web experience that includes all.
Designing for Visual Impairment
Addressing Color Contrast: In the digital realm, the balance of color becomes a crucial factor for readability. Designers must choose color combinations that offer enough contrast, ensuring that text and elements are distinguishable even for those with visual impairments.
Translating Visuals to Auditory Experiences: For people with visual impairments, screen readers are their eyes in the digital space. Visual content, like images and graphics, needs descriptive alt text so that screen readers can provide an accurate auditory representation, making the website accessible to those who can't see it visually.
Keyboard Accessibility and Navigation
Beyond Text Input: Keyboards on digital platforms are not just for typing; they provide navigation for people with motor impairments who may struggle with traditional pointing devices. This involves using the keyboard's tab key to move through interactive elements on a webpage, ensuring that each element is easily reachable and operable.
User-Centric Web Design:Web developers play a vital role in creating keyboard-friendly designs. They need to ensure that focus indicators, like highlighting, are present and easily recognizable. It enables users to understand where they are on the page and which element they're interacting with, all through keyboard accessibility.
Enhancing Multimedia Accessibility
Transcripts for Audio: Audio content like podcasts and audio clips should have written transcripts available. Transcripts provide text versions of the spoken content, making it usable to those who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as those who may not be able to listen at that moment.
Captions for Video: Just as transcripts help with audio, captions serve the same purpose for video content. Captions provide a text overlay of spoken dialogue, sound effects, and relevant non-speech elements, making videos accessible to everyone - and we need to include people who can't hear the audio content or people learning a foreign language.
Audio Descriptions: For visually impaired users, videos often contain visual elements that convey important information. Audio descriptions are verbal explanations of these visual elements, guaranteeing that individuals with visual impairments can fully comprehend the content.
Assistive Technologies and Compatibility: Empowering Accessibility
Technology is a powerful tool for bridging the accessibility gap. By using these technologies, web developers can revolutionize web sites into user-friendly spaces that are accessible to people of all abilities. Let's explore and see some examples of assistive technologies and inclusion working together.
Screen Readers:Screen readers are software programs that read aloud the content of a webpage, enabling those with visual impairments to access and interact with online information. Web accessibility requires that websites be built in a way that screen readers can explore and understand.
Screen Magnifiers: Screen magnifiers are tools that help users with low vision by enlarging the on-screen content. Compatibility with these tools means designing layouts that can scale and maintain readability without losing functionality.
Speech Recognition Tools: For people with motor impairments, speech recognition tools allow them to control digital interfaces using voice commands. Web browsers, websites and applications should be designed to easily integrate with these tools, enabling hands-free interaction.
Ever-Evolving Compatibility: As technology advances, so do assistive devices and applications. Developers are challenged to keep up with these changes to maintain the compatibility and functionality of their websites and digital content across a wide range of assistive technologies and platforms.
Pioneering a More Inclusive Digital Frontier
When we design a web page, we're not just arranging pixels on a screen; we're building bridges of knowledge and connection. From the visually impaired to those who rely on keyboards for navigation, accessibility is all about providing a pain-free, and universal experience for everyone.
Accessibility isn't just a matter of ethics - it's also a smart business move. When we think about what is accessibility in web development, it is a virtual ramp that makes your web page open to every potential customer. By accommodating the diverse needs of your users, you're not only promoting inclusivity, you're also capturing a larger share of the market.
A more accessible web page means happier users, better engagement, and increased conversions.So let's create a digital space where everyone feels valued and your business reaps the rewards.
Michał Pruciak is a seasoned consultant for tech leaders, known for his exceptional skills in business development and his passion for blending medical technology with cutting-edge advancements. He excels in strategic thinking and critical problem-solving, making him a valuable asset in his field. When he is not working, Michał enjoys watching movies and going for hikes, valuing a balance in his personal life through staying active.