Web Accessibility: What Is It and What Does It Mean for You
Your website’s design is a crucial element in converting visitors into leads and customers. Even high-quality page content, if displayed poorly, will fail to connect and engage your target audience.
You need a website design that’s accessible—something that all users can use without issue. There are web users with impairments that may find web accessibility useful in their day-to-day life. For instance, having captions on videos can help those with hearing problems consume content.
Web accessibility is a very real concern in the digital space. Educating yourself on the topic can help you understand how you can give your users more control to suit their preferences online. This can help you shift towards customer-centric branding, while also avoiding any lawsuits.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about web accessibility, including:
- What is web accessibility?
- Why web accessibility is important
- Accessible website design
- Mobile-friendly web designs
- Dark mode
What Is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility is the idea that the internet should be accessible to everyone, regardless of any potential disabilities. This can include several types of impairments, including:
- Visual impairment: partial or complete loss of vision. Includes conditions like blindness or colour blindness.
- Motor impairment: lack of mobility of the hands and fine muscle control. Examples of conditions include muscular dystrophy, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and cerebral palsy.
- Auditory impairment: partial or complete loss of hearing. Includes conditions like deafness.
- Cognitive impairment: mental conditions that limit memory, problem-solving, maturity, logic, and attention. Includes developmental and cognitive disabilities, as well as learning disabilities.
- Seizures: caused by flashing lights and visual strobe effects.
It can also include those with low bandwidth due to geographical region or socioeconomic status.
These individuals with disabilities will use assistive technology to help them use the internet. For example, a screen reader helps visually-impaired users by vocalizing text into speech.
However, websites themselves will need to have an accessible web design to ensure all users can use them.
This means the page content displayed, such as the text, images, and videos shown. It also refers to the HTML code or any other web development language that determines website presentation and function.
There are international guidelines called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that set the expected accessibility standards. The WCAG was created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and is recognized by the majority of the world.
Why Is Web Accessibility Important?
Web accessibility is important because everybody should be able to use technology and the internet. There is an ethical and moral obligation, as the internet was founded on the idea of the free exchange of information. All persons, regardless of circumstance, should have access.
Not sure if web accessibility is necessary for you and your business? Do you really need to make your web design accessible?
Absolutely, and for two primary reasons. Firstly, having a more accessible website can open your business to more people. Even though the majority of people aren’t impaired, the entirety of your target market should be able to use your website.
Prioritizing web accessibility can also become part of your branding, shifting to a more customer-focused approach.
The second reason is that having an accessible design for your website can protect you from potential lawsuits. Did you know that a blind Australian man won a $20,000 court case in 2000? He wasn’t able to use the Sydney Olympics website because of his visual impairment.
He won because the website’s lack of accessibility was considered a violation of Australia’s Disability Discrimination Act of 1992. Specifically speaking, the issue was that the website didn’t have alt texts and map links for its images.
You’ll find similar cases all over the world; countries are using anti-discrimination laws to uphold web accessibility standards.
It’s also important to note that these laws generally only apply to government websites. However, in The United States, large businesses like Domino’s Pizza have been sued. Other countries could follow suit in the future.
Accessible Website Design
So, what exactly is accessible website design? As mentioned earlier, it refers to both page content and web development code. We can look at the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to get a better understanding of the accessibility standards expected.
It’s a rather technical document that has many parts. There are 12-13 guidelines, categorized under four separate principles. Each guideline has a success criterion, which determines whether the website has met this guideline sufficiently.
Here are some examples of basic website design elements:
- You should provide alternatives for your video content, such as closed captions and audio descriptions.
- You should provide alternatives for your text content, such as audio articles.
- All functionality on your website should be able to be used with a keyword.
- The text should be visually easy to see.
- Have an appropriate colour scheme that avoids a distracting contrast.
- Avoid creating flashing content that can cause seizures.
- Make sure your website is compatible with all devices and assistive technologies.
- You should be able to navigate your website in multiple ways, such as with keyboard navigation.
That’s just some of it. This infographic is a good glance at what an appropriate accessible website will have.
Image Source: University of Pittsburgh
W3C provides a quick reference resource that makes it easy to see if you meet the requirements of WCAG. You can audit your website to see if you meet international standards. You can use an automated tool, an expert, or user testing to do this.
Mobile-Friendly Web Designs
When it comes to web accessibility, websites must be mobile-friendly. This means that it can be used with a mobile device. This is important because just about everyone has a smartphone. The majority of internet searches come from mobile devices.
For healthcare brands, the majority of potential customers will be searching for products online. This will primarily be done through mobile devices, which can include smartphones and tablets.
Without optimisation for mobile devices, a website will be incredibly difficult to use on smaller-sized screens. Users will have to pinch or zoom in to consume page content. The functionality will also be compromised; navigation will be difficult.
There are several ways a business might go about creating a website that’s optimized for mobiles. Firstly, they might create a separate, mobile-dedicated site. This is an entire website, built only for mobile device users. It would exist in tandem with the default desktop site.
The second approach is to use a responsive web design. This allows your website to scale to fit the screen size of the device being used. With this method, you won’t need to create a separate website, as you’ll only need one for all users. It doesn’t matter if they’re using desktop or mobile.
Here’s an image to help you understand how responsive web design works:
There are benefits and drawbacks to either mobile-friendly strategy. Responsive web design is cheaper to build and maintain as you only need one site while mobile-dedicated requires two.
However, a responsive web design is slower, doesn’t work as well with complex tasks, and doesn’t integrate well with third-party software.
There is a third approach that solves some of the issues of a responsive web design: adaptive web design. It sends content and features of your website that the device can efficiently use. It saves time, making it a faster approach.
Think of responsive as being fluid, while adaptive as being static.
But there are some drawbacks to adaptive web design. It’s more expensive to build and maintain. As you can see, all three have strengths and weaknesses. Which one is ideal for you will depend on your unique circumstances.
The easiest and cheapest is to use a responsive web design that’s provided via a CMS platform like WordPress. It comes standard with the free and paid themes present.
When discussing accessible website design, there’s one trend that’s gained popularity in recent times: dark mode.
“Dark mode” is an alternative colour scheme to the default of a website. It includes light coloured text and dark coloured background. The default colour scheme of a website typically features dark coloured text and light coloured background.
Image Source: How-To Geek
There are several reasons why dark mode has become relevant. It looks cool, big tech companies are doing it, lots of apps already use it, and it also improves battery life. If you didn’t know, lighter-coloured pixels use more power; dark mode helps batteries last longer.
But, where dark mode benefits a website is by improving accessibility for its users. The darker screen is easier on the eyes, decreasing strain and improving visibility in low-light situations.
Digital eye strain is a real health concern that’s exacerbated by using devices at night. Dark mode provides users with more options to make their digital experience more healthy and in tune with their environment.
A brand must provide the best, most inclusive website experience possible. It’s all about making the website accessible and giving users a choice to tailor the experience to their preferences.
If you have the budget and the time to implement a dark mode to your website, it could be a powerful branding tool. You’re establishing a user-focused identity, providing your audience with more control. A dark mode might just be the perfect rebranding strategy for your company.
Designing a Website That Engages Your Target Market
Website design is an essential component to conversion. Even the best content can’t overcome sloppy user experience. To get the most out of your website, you need a design that’s accessible to users and their preferences.
Web accessibility is an issue that governments all over the world acknowledge and address.
Do you need professional help designing your healthcare brand’s website? Consider hiring a web design & development agency today.
Web accessibility is the idea that the internet and all websites featured should be designed so that they can be used by all, regardless of any disabilities or geographical/socioeconomic barriers.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are an internationally recognized web accessibility standard set by the World Wide Web Consortium — W3C.
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international nonprofit organization that sets standards regarding the internet, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines — WCAG.
Dark mode is a colour scheme for a website that acts as an alternative to the default, light-coloured design. It features a dark background and light text colours, which improves battery life, low light visibility and decreases eye strain.
Mobile-friendly is a term used to describe a website that is accessible by using mobile devices. Mobile-friendly websites will use a responsive web design to scale the layout to the dimensions of the smartphone used.
A mobile-dedicated site is a website that’s been created specifically for the screen dimensions and function of a mobile device. They’re typically created as an alternative version of a desktop website so that mobile users can access and use the domain.
Responsive Web Design
A responsive web design is an approach to web design that allows a website to fluidly scale itself to fit any type of device. This means that the dimensions of the website change to fit the screen size.
Adaptive Web Design
An adaptive web design is a version of a responsive web design that uses preset static pages to fit several mobile devices, such as smartphones or tablets. This allows the loading speeds to be faster than responsive web design.
Content Management System (CMS)
A content management system (CMS) is a software application that allows you to create, edit, and publish content. CMS platforms, such as WordPress, are used to build websites.
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