Does your website meet accessibility standards?

  • Categories:

    Digital

  • Date:

    September 16, 2022

Does your website meet accessibility standards?



Digital

The internet is a busy place: In 2022, 5 billion people access the World Wide Web each day. With so many users from all over the globe spending time online, it’s more important than ever to ensure that everyone can easily navigate the internet. This is where accessibility standards come into play. But what are web accessibility standards, and why are they so critical?

Why is web accessibility so important?

When the Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990, it mandated action to make all public spaces accessible for all people. In the following years, consideration for the internet itself as a public space started to take hold. This means ensuring that the web is usable by people with all abilities and limitations, though accessibility remains a best practice as opposed to part of the law.

Thirty-two years later, almost everything about the internet has changed, yet one truth still stands: All websites should strive to meet accessibility standards, ensuring the internet is friendly and easily navigable for most.

Accessibility is top of mind for everyone on our team. Making sure every person can use the internet, regardless of their limitations, is a natural extension of Wray Ward’s drive to do the right thing. In fact, we believe accessibility is so important that we made an enhanced focus on accessibility a goal in 2021. Through that commitment, we amped up our education and training. Now, we’re helping clients blend creativity with functionality in ways we may not have even considered a few short years earlier.

So, is your website accessible?

To explore the answer, I put together this quick breakdown of some of the most common accessibility standards — as well as how we’re addressing them at Wray Ward.

What makes a website accessible?

According to W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative, accessibility means that “websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them.” This includes perceiving, understanding, navigating, contributing to and interacting with a web page.

Website accessibility also considers the five major categories of disabilities:

  1. Visual

  2. Hearing

  3. Motor

  4. Speech

  5. Cognitive

Does your website meet the commonly accepted minimum standards for accessibility? Deque Systems, whose open-source accessibility testing guidelines are commonly accepted as the industry standard, contends that companies should be able to answer the following questions about their website:

  • Is color alone used to convey important information?

  • Is the color contrast of text readable by people with low vision?

  • Do all images have alternative text?

  • Is the alternative text providing valuable context?

  • If the image is a link, does the alternative text clearly identify the link destination?

  • Are all CSS background images either pure decoration or have alternative text?

  • Is any text embedded in images?

  • Does the tab order make sense?

  • Is the HTML semantically written to provide an accurate page hierarchy?

  • Can you always see where the keyboard focus is?

  • Does the user have access to the full functionality of the page or application using a keyboard alone? (For example, are there any keyboard traps?)

  • Do all form fields have appropriate labels?

  • Are all functionality components and content available to a screen reader?

The answers to these questions provide the groundwork for all accessibility — the minimum standards by which digital designers and developers should abide.

What are the best ways to test your website’s accessibility?

There are two testing methods to determine your website’s accessibility: automated and manual.

Automated Tests

Automated tests scan electronic content to determine its level of use.

A handful of programs scan for accessibility red flags, including missing alt text descriptions and labels, lack of color contrast and more. Here are a handful of automatic accessibility tools we recommend:

Manual Tests

Manual tests are conducted by an expert in the digital accessibility field using common tools. These tests consider the user experiences of people with many different types of disabilities.

A skilled manual tester can catch issues that are difficult for an automated program to sense. These areas include keyboard-only navigation and screen reader compatibility, among others. Manual accessibility testing should be performed by trained professionals with specific expertise. A manual accessibility tester should be familiar with the most up-to-date standards for online accessibility. They should have a strong understanding of user needs and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards.

At Wray Ward, we often run tests to identify some of the most critical website accessibility issues for clients. The graphs we provide illustrate findings that are color-coded to indicate urgency. Here’s a basic example:

How can you make your website more accessible?

Certain solutions can be implemented via tools, such as accessibility overlays. These are buttons on websites that, when clicked, bring up menus with different settings and options, such as larger text size and contrast settings.

However, the best accessibility features are baked into a website from the beginning, encompassing content strategy, design and especially coding, providing aids that are visible only to visitors who need them.

Want to see an example of how website code can improve accessibility? Take a quick look at how we implement alt text on the Wray Ward website. Our Digital team also follows this best practice when building websites for clients.

We’ve implemented these standards for many of our clients. While the work is often invisible except to those who need these measures, here is an example of a VELUX website, whyskylights.com, for which they’ve made a big difference:

Summing It Up

A balanced, start-to-finish approach will always be the best path to consistent and inclusive accessibility.

Take the time for manual and automated testing, so you can catch a wide range of potential issues before they become a real problem. Remember that many testing areas are best handled by a trained professional, though certain tasks can potentially be accomplished automatically via a trustworthy piece of software. Implement both manual and automatic testing for the most comprehensive view of website accessibility.

Wray Ward takes a holistic approach to accessibility, and we’re committed to making it central to all of the website projects we deliver for clients. As best practices continue to evolve, we’ll stay on top of them so you can continue to focus on what you do best.

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