Website Accessibility in 2020 and Beyond
The internet has always been known as a place of total inclusion. No matter who you are and what you do, there is probably a place of like-minded folks on the internet. Internet communities are essentially their own little tribes, and they’re ultimately the very thing that makes up a large portion of the internet.
However, the internet has (unfortunately) never been 100% accessible to those with disabilities. While many websites, app developers, and programmers have considered accessibility and made numerous enhancements to the web over the years, there’s still quite a long way to go. Total accessibility may, or may not, be the end-goal – but there’s still the problem of effectively making the web more accessible right now.
Do you know if your websites are accessible? If so, then how accessible are they? Whether you’re looking for the solution for web accessibility, or you want to learn more about accessibility standards in general, the following sections contain everything you need to get started. We cover some of the current guidelines for accessibility, some tips on making your properties more accessible, and other fascinating details regarding digital accessibility.
Why Accessibility Matters: Inclusion and Education
The modern world simply wouldn’t exist without the internet. The web has forever changed the world. The global population is more connected than ever. The number of total internet users in the world has also been steadily climbing for the past several years. With more people continuing to use the internet, the need for truly accessible experiences is paramount (and long overdue, by the way).
This means that the internet will become even more important. Apps and experiences of all types will be available through the web. Of course, the internet is already incredibly important. The amount of commerce done through the internet is staggering. Trillions upon trillions of dollars are spent over the web.
The internet is important, but equally important is ensuring that the internet is as accessible as possible to those that suffer from disabilities. Luckily, the very intelligent team over at W3C (the World Wide Web Consortium) already thought of this and created WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). WCAG 2.1 is currently the best way to ensure that your website possesses the highest level of accessibility.
How Accessibility Can Be Hindered on the Web
Generally speaking, five different issues arise in terms of being inaccessible – speech, physical, visual, cognitive, and auditory. Of course, the specific disability and/or impairment of any one internet user depends on the disabilities they suffer from. This means that it’s not possible to cherry-pick only a few accessibility standards while ignoring the multitude of others.
The Changing Landscape of Accessibility and Tech-Assisted Web Experiences
In the early days of the web (i.e. 1990s), accessibility wasn’t exactly the top priority. Fortunately, that attitude has seen a massive shift – accessibility has never been more important. One of the great benefits of the massive leap in technological development over the past few decades is that of assistive-technology (otherwise referred to as AT).
AT allows internet users with impairments to use different types of devices, apps, tools, plugins, etc. to easily browse the web. An example of one such type of device/application is screen reading technology. By using a screen reader, people who are visually incapable of viewing the web can successfully navigate, read, and consume content.
WCAG and What It Means for Your Business
As we’ve already covered, WCAG is the industry-standard set of guidelines created by W3C. While we’re only on WCAG 2.0 (which shows just how early we are in regards to total accessibility), the set of guidelines is updated every few years and will probably be updated more often in the near future.
The easiest way to ensure total compliance with WCAG’s latest iteration is by hiring a third-party auditor to routinely test your website for WCAG compliance. Any new web development projects should be designed and produced with accessibility (via WCAG) in mind from the very beginning.
To sum it all up, you (and your business) needs to make sure that accessibility is a priority from here on out. The problem isn’t just an ethical one, either. There are lawsuits filed every single day against website owners who fail to maintain accessibility.
Don’t leave yourself open to this vulnerability, start your compliance review/redevelopment today. The world is only becoming more insular and well-connected, don’t be left behind in the new age of accessibility.
By Dadav Nakner