Importance of Website Accessibility

The internet has become the primary source of information when it comes to healthcare. Many people are now online dependent on getting health-related information since it’s fast and convenient. In the US alone, at least 80% of the population this year searched online for health and medical information, including healthy diet tips, and facts about medical procedures.

However, the question remains whether individuals with disabilities could use and benefit from modern digital mechanisms independently at all times.

What is Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility refers to the inclusive practice of providing all internet (and mobile devices) users the freedom of interaction, navigation, and access to various websites (incl. apps and tools) without fear of diverse accessibility barriers. It simply means that the Web should be able to accommodate all users with or without disabilities to have equal access to all its information and functionality.

What is ADA and How to Become ADA Compliant?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), enacted in 1990, bans all forms of discrimination against individuals with differing abilities. It also requires organizations to implement reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities. ADA’s goal is to provide equal-access accommodation and opportunities for PWDs.

Thus, consider full compliance with the DOJ’s ADA Standards for Accessible Design. This means all electronic and information technology should be accessible to PWDs. Although the DOJ has not yet published a regulation that applies for its full implementation, its absence does not mean that entities engaged in public accommodations may not comply with ADA standards.

This is because websites are considered places of public accommodation as per the Federal Court ruling on several cases. So, compliance is the safest bet to avoid a lawsuit.

Accessibility Guide and Accessibility Statement

An accessibility guide will assist you in making your site more accessible and compliant with the law. While a Web Accessibility Statement helps you avoid legal consequences for non-compliance as well as let your site visitors know your intent and commitment to accessibility.

  • What is Website Accessibility Guide

These are guidelines that you should follow when designing and developing sites such as WCAG 2.1 and ADA Standards for Accessible Design. It usually includes four principles: perceivable, understandable, operable, and robust.

  • What is Web Accessibility Statement  

Web accessibility statement refers to your declaration to the public that you are committed to making your website accessible based on web accessibility standards.  Ideally, it should be a brief yet succinct policy statement. It must affirm commitment and intent to making it accessible for everyone.

  • Web Accessibility Policy Statements: Best Practices

When redesigning or developing your site, or considering publishing a Policy Statement—you should first evaluate your accessibility. Doing so address possible problems or allows you to mention it in your statement that you are working on it. This is the best way to communicate with your disabled visitors that you are committed to making it accessible.

Below are some web accessibility policy statement’s best practices:

  • Make a simple yet clear statement about your intent and commitment to following accessibility guidelines.
  • Make it highly visible and place it in the footer of every page.
  • Offer a clear path of communication so visitors can easily reach you.

Web accessibility standards into UX Design 

Web accessibility standards should also apply as UX design best practices. Simple interfaces, alternative user pathways, and among others makes the web so much more useful to people with disabilities. Ideally, web accessibility UX design should be navigable with a keyboard alone, works with assistive technologies, and are easy to understand.

  • Enable keyboard navigation for web design 

Most users, in general, prefer keyboard navigation, especially with hotkey shortcuts. However, for disabled users, enabling this feature is a must as they rely heavily on it. Hence, it’s crucial to design a keyboard-friendly layout and navigation.    

  • Prioritize text clarity 

Text clarity is a common issue encountered by visually impaired users. As a designer, you should prioritize amplifying clarity of letters and clarity of text blocks (legibility and readability). 

Ideally, 4:5:1 should be the minimum contrast ratio between text and background. While the required body text should be at least 16 pixels. Then, line spacing must be around 25% of the font size. Including the 16-pixel minimum size above, space should be at least 4 pixels.

Additionally, authorizing font augmentation in style sheets by utilizing other measures aside from pixels, like em, pt, or relative sizes.

  • Don’t rely exclusively on color 

Almost 10% of the population suffers from color blindness. While color-coding can be used as a fast and effective communication concerning functionality, don’t neglect to add labels to explain important functions. If unsure, it’s best to try looking at your interface in a black-and-white filter when designing for the visually-impaired.

  • Order content in HTML for screen readers 

Since the inception of HTML and CSS separation, developers can make changes to what users see even without modifying the code structure.

And this is highly favorable to screen readers allowing them better usability. With this change, you can reorganize the code to make it suitable for screen readers without altering the screen layout. The navigation menu can stay at the top while the code stays at the bottom—this is a win-win for both sighted users and visually impaired.

  • Explanatory link text

Text descriptions are useful to users allowing them to better distinguish the links and evaluate whether to follow it. The description should give the user a hint where it leads. A good practice should be to include only the necessary and never too much.

  • Use a 40×40 pt. clickable area for touch controls

People with larger fingers sizes, or use assistive technologies, or are technically disabled, benefit from touch controls when navigating the web. So, when designing, aim using 40×40 pt. clickable area for touch controls because less than that can frustrate some users.

  • Do not forget to follow the accessibility checklist

Above mentioned tips will help to have a better UX in general. However, following everything stated in the accessibility checklist as mandated by WCAG will provide the most meaningful and relevant experience to all users. Don’t forget to follow the checklist starting from images, color, text, audio, navigation, site structure, forms to text elements. 

Conclusion

The importance of web accessibility is to provide everyone, including PWDs, equal access to the web. Developing an accessible site is a moral, ethical, and practical thing to accomplish.

David Gevorkian 

CEO/Founder
David started Be Accessible because of his passion for website accessibility and ADA compliance. He spent much of his career working for financial institutions creating websites and mobile applications. He earned his Master’s in Business Administration from Salve Regina University in Rhode Island. David is an advocate for creating web interfaces usable by all people. He enjoys recording music and playing soccer with friends.

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