Digital accessibility is creating digital products, such as websites, digital content, etc., that is accessible to all.
It is about ensuring that all users have the same access to information, regardless of their disabilities.
Digital products must be designed keeping in mind the diverse needs, skills, and abilities of people. Accessibility is about inclusion and making sure that no one is excluded.
Digital accessibility is when everyone can perceive, navigate, interact, and communicate with the content present online.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is the international accessibility standard. WCAG was established by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), part of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
It includes technical recommendations on how to make web content more accessible for people with disabilities.
WCAG defines defines content as information on a web page or web application. Including, text, images, and sounds, as well as coding and mark-up that defines the structure and presentation.
WCAG is the standard reference for most website accessibility-related legislation, including the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) in the US.
The WCAG has gone through several updates since it was first published in 1995.
There are four principles of web accessibility under the WCAG. The POUR principles are the foundations of content produced for the web and for anyone who wants to use it.
Each principle has testable success criteria. It is classified by three levels – A, AA, and AAA. Level A being the easiest and AAA the most challenging.
The information and elements of the user interface must be presented in a way that can be perceived by the senses so that nothing is undetectable or invisible.
The interactive elements of an interface, such as controls, buttons, and navigation, should be operated physically by clicking, touching, swiping, and rolling. Alternatively, voice commands or other assistive devices like head wands and eye trackers should be provided.
Technology should be presented and used clearly and consistently, with predictable patterns of use and design. The end-user should understand the meaning and purpose of the information presented in the content while understanding the user flow and interaction of the interface.
Content must be robust to work reliably with a wide variety of technologies, including assistive devices.
The lack of any one of these four principles will make the web inaccessible to users with disabilities.
Why is Digital Accessibility Important?
At least 1 billion people worldwide live with some form of disability
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that about 15% of the world’s population experiences disability, and the number of people with disabilities is expected to increase due to demographic trends and other factors.
In the United States, about 25% of adults live with a disability, and that doesn’t include people with situational disabilities Digital accessibility improves the experience for all of these users.
Globally, people with disabilities control about $6.9 trillion in disposable income
The American Institute for Research estimates that in the United States alone, people with disabilities have an estimated annual disposable income of about $490 billion.
For businesses ignoring accessibility that means turning away millions of customers, potential revenue, and ignoring SEO for your business.
Businesses receive 265,000 demand letters a year
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits businesses from discriminating against people with disabilities in “places of public accommodation.”
In 2020, Accessibility.com reported that, businesses received 265,000 website accessibility demand letters. In total, brands may have spent billions of dollars responding to ADA complaints.
By achieving WCAG conformance, brands may protect themselves from expensive legal fees.
97.4% of the top 1 million websites fail to comply with WCAG 2.0
The 2021 WebAIM Million Report analyzed the home pages of the top one million websites using automated WCAG testing tools.
Automated testing isn’t perfect — which is why the W3C recommends using both manual and automated tests when auditing for WCAG conformance. Barriers like missing alternative text, low-contrast text, and improperly labelled form input labels still exist and can impact the experience of users with disabilities.
Apart from all of the above digital accessibility is also good for business.
While 71% of web users with a disability will simply leave a website that is not accessible, users without disabilities also find that accessibility features help them navigate your site more effectively.
When you maintain an accessible digital presence, all your visitors benefit.
Some of the benefits of digital accessibility are:
- Improve user experience
- Increase sales revenue
- Reach a larger customer base that includes the disabled population
- Stay compliant and avoid costly lawsuits
Some Examples of Digital Accessibility
A digitally accessible website or app must have the following minimum features based on the business and consumer it serves:
- Provides text and/or audio alternatives for any non-text content.
- Content is presented in different ways without losing information, context, or structure.
- Permits all functionality from a keyboard if needed, as opposed to a cursor.
- Must not be designed in a way that is known to cause seizures.
- Includes ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.
- Allows screen readers to parse a website for a user with visual impairments.
- Includes closed-captioned videos for individuals with hearing impairments.
- Includes “alt text” on images for individuals with visual impairments.
- Allows navigation by keyboard (i.e. using the Tab key) for users who may not be able to operate a mouse.
Need Help With Digital Accessibility?
Digital accessibility compliance can seem daunting, especially if it involves a complete overhaul of your website and web content. It is a crucial requirement that you cannot afford to ignore.
Our team of experienced digital accessibility professionals can help you create and maintain websites accessible to all.
Contact us at 1 (800) 769-9715 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how to make your websites and digital content like PDFs, Word, Excel, PPT, E Pub accessible and compliant as per ADA, WCAG 2.0, and PDF U/A standards.