In developed countries where internet access is widespread, web accessibility usually refers to the ability of individuals with access to the internet to be able to use it and benefit from it. (It is also referred to as “digital accessibility,” or even “html accessibility” on occasion.) The experience on an “accessible website” should be comparable for all users, regardless of what technology or methods they use to access it (more on this later).
The average person uses the internet hundreds of times per day. We check our email, deposit checks through our phones, buy plane tickets, and conduct thousands of other transactions that most people do without thinking twice. However, for those with disabilities (motor, cognitive, visual, etc.), using the internet may not be so easy.
How do people with disabilities use the internet?
Pretty much the same way as able-bodied individuals, except they may utilize “assistive technology” or other methods that help accommodate their disability. For example, visually impaired people use screen readers that literally read the contents of a digital screen aloud. Users with motor control disabilities who may not be able to use a mouse can navigate using the keyboard (the tab key allows them to work through content). However, accommodations like these are not possible unless the content is coded in such a way that allows these techniques and external technology to work. That is, ensuring “website accessibility.”
How do I ensure web accessibility for a digital property?
The good news is that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has been working on making the web accessible to people with disabilities for years. They put together a comprehensive list of web accessibility standards that include the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the gold standard of how to create an inclusive digital experience for all. These web standards provide guidance for developers (and even designers) for writing code and creating content that people with disabilities can access with ease.
The web content accessibility guidelines and accessibility web standards fall under the purview of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). This initiative is a major focus of the W3C, as you can imagine, and there is a host of information available for those looking to improve and ultimately ensure their website’s accessibility.
Are there tools to test for web accessibility?
Naturally! One such web accessibility evaluation tool, ARC Toolkit, is a free Chrome extension offered by The Paciello Group. It’s used to check for accessibility failures and alerts on single web pages. Another free option is TPG’s accessibility scan. Our powerful scanning and monitoring solution, ARC Monitoring, will check your content against specific website accessibility standards and give you a high-level understanding of how your digital content stacks up.
Web accessibility can seem like a lofty goal for the uninitiated, especially if all this is new to you. However, like anything in life, all it takes is a little dedication to learning new things to get started on a path of greater website accessibility. If you’re still unsure how to proceed, contact us today and we’ll help you craft a plan for your organization.
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