Making your website more accessible helps you to break down barriers to access to your organisation and its services. As well as increasing accessibility for disabled people, all your audiences will benefit. There is a lot of information out there about digital accessibility and it can seem overwhelming. In this two-part series, Dyfan Wyn Owen, partner in Writing Services, summarises some of the things you can learn from the industry-standard ‘Introduction to Web Accessibility’ course created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)*.
We’ve included links for those who want to delve further, but if you’re a small organisation with limited time and resources, there are still things that you can do that will make a difference to many of your website visitors. Ask for help from your web developer, make sure the work is part of your core strategies and work plans, and focus on one aspect of accessibility at a time. Starting somewhere is better than waiting to do everything perfectly.
1. Understand who may be facing barriers to access
There are many people who could find using and navigating a website difficult, if you haven’t considered their needs:
- Blind, partially sighted and colour-blind people – who may need your site to be accessible to screen readers or may need high-contrast graphics
- Deaf and hard of hearing people – who will need video and audio content to be transcribed
- People with fine motor skill disabilities – who may have difficulty operating a mouse for example, and may have difficulty selecting small elements on the screen
- Learning disabled people – who may need copy and content to be ‘Easy Read‘, with clear heading structures
- Lack of accessibility may also affect people who don’t define themselves as disabled eg someone with a broken arm, elderly people, or people for whom English is a second language.
In fact, accessibility improvements benefit everyone. A clearly laid out site makes it quicker for you to find what you need. Video/audio captions are handy when you want to keep your volume off. Colour contrast helps when you’re looking at your smartphone outdoors.
However, what improves accessibility for some, may not be for others – so providing choice in how people access content is key.
2. Learn more about how disabled people navigate the web
In fact, learning how everyone navigates the web will help your digital communications massively. There’s a good summary here: The essential guide to website navigation from HubSpot. You can also see FOR FREE how people are using your website using Hotjar.
People with disabilities navigate the web in a variety of ways depending on their needs. Some may use specialised software and hardware (assistive technologies), others may adjust their platform and browser settings (adaptive strategies).
One example of assistive technology is a Digital Braille Display. It has a row of pins which pop up and create the words that are onscreen, in Braille.
One of the most frequently used adaptive strategies is when people customise their software platform (eg Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS etc) or browser settings (Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Edge, IE) eg:
- increasing font size to suit reading needs
- zooming to magnify all or part of the screen in the browser
- using high contrast mode which inverts colours
- resizing browser windows
3. Get a basic understanding of accessibility principles
The W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) recommends four principles for accessibility (which can be remembered with the acronym POUR):
- Perceivable – Information can be presented in different ways; for example, in braille, different text sizes, text-to-speech, or symbols, etc.. Users must be able to perceive the information being presented it can’t be invisible to all their senses
- Operable – Functionality can be used in different modes; for example, keyboard, mouse, sip-and-puff, speech input, touch, etc. and users must be able to operate the interface
- Understandable – Information and functionality is understandable; for example consistent navigation, simple language, etc.
- Robust – Content can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of browsers, media players, and assistive technologies. Users must be able to access the content regardless of what method they use to consume your digital content.
4. Work out where you are now
The first step in revamping your website is to find out where you are now. The W3C site has a video and resource to help you called Easy Checks – A First Review of Web Accessibility.
If you want to investigate further, here are some other tools and resources:
Accessibility evaluation tools :
Advice on evaluation tools:
Add-ons for browsers that will help you/ your web developer with these checks:
You can see a demonstration of these checks on the WAI Before and After Demo.
5. Raise awareness about the need for accessibility
One of the most effective ways to make the case for improving your website is to invite people with disabilities to share how they use technology and how it impacts their lives (make sure they’re compensated for their time).
You could also share these videos with your web developer and team:
* W3C’s ‘Introduction to Web Accessibility’ course is the gold standard for web accessibility. It’s part of the W3Cx training programme, developed by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) in cooperation with the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education.