Why is web accessibility essential?

19 May 22 Admin


On Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Tilt’s QA engineer, Jordan Stanley, explains why digital access and inclusion needs to be prioritised all year round for the more than one billion people living in the world with impairments and disabilities …

Have you ever wondered how someone who is blind reads the latest news, or how someone who suffers from mobility issues manages to place that winning bid on their favourite auction site?

Around 15 per cent of the global population lives with a disability. If that isn’t you, imagine it is for a moment and the frustration that you might feel trying to engage with a website that has not been developed with accessibility in mind to meet your visual, hearing, motor or cognitive needs.

We all understand the importance of making a great product and producing some amazing content to reach our audience. Accessibility takes this one step further and ensures that your website is usable by as many people as possible.

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More than one in five potential UK consumers have a disability

Developing with accessibility in mind ensures that people with disabilities can also interact with your website the same way a person without disabilities can. It’s important to remember that accessibility isn’t just limited to disabled users; it also benefits a significant number of users who view websites on mobiles and tablets.

Following accessibility guidelines often makes web content more usable to users overall. A set standard for web content accessibility has been developed, known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which covers four main areas:

1. Perceivable: All web content needs to be perceivable to all users. Information and user interface components must be presented in a way that all users can recognise and understand. An example of a perceivable failure is content that is only conveyed in visual or in an audio format. It is expected that content is conveyed in both formats to remain accessible.

2. Operable: All user interface components must be operable; this includes being able to navigate content using the keyboard only. Functionality must not require motion.

3. Understandable: Information and the operation of the user interface needs to be comprehensible.

4. Robust: Code needs to be developed in such a way that it remains accessible by assistive technologies, such as screen readers (JAWS, NVDA, VoiceOver etc).

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What challenges can visual and immersive projects present?

One of the first considerations needs to be on maintaining an immersive experience for the user no matter how they are interacting with it. This, in a nutshell, encapsulates the importance of design thinking, something that we helped Vodafone colleagues understand by drumming up a design challenge around accessibility and visual impairment. For users with low vision, the contrast ratio of copy against its background is essential to allow the user to digest all content.

Likewise, for users with hearing impairments, it’s vital that any information or content conveyed by audio is also presented via closed captions or transcripts.

Users with motor disabilities, who rely on navigating a website using solely a keyboard, also expect to be able to tab to all of the content in a logical order without becoming trapped. In addition to this, users who are blind use supportive technologies that read aloud on-screen content.

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Five essential tips to tackle accessibility issues

1. Awareness, empathy, and understanding: Taking time to understand the difficulties that some users may experience when interacting with a product is the first step to ensuring that you are building something that remains accessible for as many users as possible.

2. Contrast: The copy and user interface components need to have sufficient contrast against their background. Copy requires a contrast ratio of 4.5:1 and user interface components and graphical objects require a contrast ratio of 3:1.

3. Keyboard accessibility: Functionality must be available to the user when navigating via the keyboard, without any keyboard traps and with a tab order that makes sense.

4. Closed captions: Videos need closed captions, including speech and non-speech audio information that gives additional meaning.

5. Alternative text: Add descriptive alternative text to all images so that the meaning can be communicated to users via screen readers. Pictures that do not convey information, or that are decorative only, need to have a null alternative text to ensure that screen readers can accurately communicate what they are.