What is digital accessibility?
Digital Accessibility refers to the accessibility of digital content, including websites, web applications, and mobile apps. This involves ensuring that the website or application can be accessed by those who have difficulty using typical technologies, such as screen readers, keyboards, or mouse-over assistance.
This helps to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in the web and access important information, shop or bank online, and use services that they rely on every day.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide a set of guidelines that can help ensure digital accessibility. These guidelines were developed to support organizations and web managers in creating fully accessible technology. They’re seen as the global standard for web accessibility.
Why is digital accessibility so important?
We rely on online digital services today more than ever before. It’s vital to consider digital accessibility when building your websites so that everybody can use them.
By paying particular attention to digital accessibility, and ensuring your website is built to be accessible, organizations can increase their total addressable market.
Added benefits from building an accessible website include
- Better usability for users with disabilities
- Increased SEO potential
- Better content
- More intuitive design and user experience
- Better optimization for mobile devices
In the US, accessibility lawsuits have also been on the rise over recent years. By ensuring that your website or digital services are accessible, you can safeguard yourself and your organization against potential lawsuits. Key pieces of legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 have seen amends over the years due to the increased use and dependency on digital services. Without taking a serious stance on digital accessibility, your organization could suffer serious legal consequences.
Aside from ethical and legal reasons to focus on digital accessibility, it’s important to understand that it’s also about building a better digital and more user-friendly experience for everyone. Digital accessibility can support all users, even those who have a situational or temporary impairment. Examples include:
- Users with broken technology, such as a mouse or touch screen, who must rely on other means of navigation and control
- Users on small screens such as a mobile device
- Users that have lost or broken glasses or are recovering from surgery
- Users with temporary disabilities such as a broken arm or wrist
- Users with slow internet speeds
- Users in a very bright or noisy environment
What are the different types of disability?
Disabilities, including those that are temporary or situational, are easily broken down into 4 core categories:
- Visual: Disabilities that affect sight, such as color blindness, low vision, or blindness
- Auditory: Disabilities that affect hearing, including hearing loss to varying degrees
- Motor: Physical disabilities that might include missing limbs, arthritis, repetitive strain injuries, involuntary tremors and spasms, and many other disorders that cause reduced physical dexterity.
- Cognitive: Refers to a broad range of impairments that can affect a person’s ability to process, understand, and respond to information. These disabilities can manifest in a variety of ways, such as difficulty with reading, and writing, problems with attention and focus, difficulty with social interactions, and memory impairments.
What are the benefits of having a digitally accessible website?
- An improved experience for all visitors
- Enhanced reputation by demonstrating a commitment to digital inclusion
- Better protection against accessibility-related lawsuits
- Increases website conversions
- Improved SEO. Google considers accessibility as a ranking factor
- Increased reach and a larger potential audience
How do I implement digital accessibility?
There are a lot of ways you can get started with digital accessibility. We’d recommend making yourself aware of the legal legislation of web accessibility in your area, which may include guidance around what accessibility standards you should be targeting. If you are unsure, we’d recommend targeting the WCAG 2.1 AA standard since it is often cited in legislation.
Understanding WCAG guidelines and the nuances of web accessibility is a preferred next step but can be very daunting and time-consuming. However, by educating you and your team on web accessibility, you can ensure that future changes and content added to your website don’t suffer from existing accessibility issues and add to the problem.
You can get started with a range of bite-sized and fun accessibility videos on the Silktide YouTube channel.
Some organizations may employ an accessibility consultant to help find and tackle their web accessibility issues, whereas others may decide to manually find and fix accessibility issues across their site. Of course, both of these are very time-consuming and costly.
Automated accessibility testing is recommended as a starting point. You can get a free accessibility scan of your website from Silktide.
It is also worth noting that digital accessibility overlays are most often not a solution to web accessibility issues. If you are using an accessibility overlay or widget, you can still be subject to accessibility lawsuits.