Are You New To Accessibility?
Are You New To Accessibility?
The Purpose of Web Accessibility
The Internet is changing the way the world is reached by the disabled community. Before the Internet, individuals who were blind were unable to read the daily newspaper and those with motor disabilities might struggle to even pick one up or turn its many pages to read the news.
Thanks to technological advances, those same people are now able to access the newspaper online and reading its contents through the use of screen readers, Braille keyboards and/or eye-tracking software. However, despite the massive amount of potential the Internet has for people with disabilities, we continue to fall short.
A Rapidly Growing Need
As the global population grows, we find ourselves wanting the same thing year after year — a fair and equal society. In order to achieve that, we have to tackle the issue of discrimination, one of modern society’s biggest hurdles personally and professionally, we all want to ensure equal opportunities to everyone, regardless of age, name, gender, sex, race, or disability.
The United States’ disabled community is one of the largest in the world and comprises up nearly a quarter of the population. About 56.7 million people had a disability in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Within those millions, about 8.1 million people had difficulty seeing, including 2 million people were unable to see entirely and were fully blind. About 7.6 million experienced difficulty hearing, including 1.1 million who experienced severe hearing loss.
Imagine the obstacles those individuals must face when completing day-to-day tasks or interacting with society. Our goal as a society should be to alleviate obstacles and create an equal opportunity and proper accommodations for all.
WCAG 2.1 Guidelines
The first step taken to fight the injustice and inequality on behalf of individuals with disabilities was the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of religion, age, gender, or race. The ADA also developed requirements for effective communication, which can play a role when it comes to the practical use of telecommunication devices such as computers or phones.
The ADA wasn’t the only agency to ensure equal opportunity protection. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was also developed with this effort; to ensure world-wide cooperation, the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines were implemented to mandate electronic and information technology’s (EIT) accessibility to individuals with disabilities.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are intended for use by web authoring tool developers, web accessibility evaluation tool developers, web content developers (such as page authors, site designers, etc.) and also for others who want or need a standard for web accessibility.
Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust
WCAG guidelines implement four main principles to ensure web content is more accessible to individuals with disabilities. First, by being perceivable, services and assistive technologies such as screen readers are available to all the senses, such as vision and hearing. Second, by being operable, interaction with all elements and controls can be performed using assistive devices or a keyboard. Third, by ensuring it is understandable, clean content is provided with limited complications. Lastly, by being robust, a wide range of technologies allows users to access the content easily and efficiently.
Web content can also consist of natural information, including sounds, images, or text and it can also consist of markup or code that defines presentation and structure. WCAG is consistently evolving, with the WCAG 2.1 publication in 2008 and more recently, the WCAG 2.1 publication in 2018. All previous requirements are included in the newer 2.1 version and additional requirements have been added. It is important to remember that even though your website was considered compliant with WCAG standards 20 years ago, it might not be the case today.
As websites age, some content may include archived material not yet accessible to the public. That pre-existing, aged content may pose a liability risk to your organization, which could take the form of a letter of complaint or even a lawsuit. Your risk grows significantly if your organization is a public school, college, or state government institution. For these types of organizations, WCAG compliance is critical – it’s the law. Also, even if your organization is not within the United States, many international laws also address web accessibility. This is a global issue, affecting a much larger population.
Where To Go From Here
Many opportunities are offered to individuals with disabilities through the use of the Internet. Often, it is the only way to be independent, purchase supplies and communicate with the world. But if a website is not taking web accessibility into account when creating and developing their content, this population that can essentially gain the most from its use, is unable to do so. The negative effects of an inaccessible website are far-reaching — for the disabled community and for your organization, in terms of limiting your audience and source of revenue, as well as potential legal proceedings.
The best step is to be proactive! There are many resources available to help you, including consulting, accessible site design and training. If you’d like to learn more about web accessibility and the services offered to ensure compliance, contact your trusted partners at AKEA Web Solutions. We are the leading experts in web accessibility compliance; with over a decade of consulting experience, we provide both web design and web accessibility, setting us apart from other firms. Our main focus at AKEA Web Solutions is making sure your website not only works for your organization, but for your audience as well. Don’t hesitate: contact AKEA Web Solutions to learn more about web accessibility today.