For most of us, it’s hard to imagine trying to navigate the world today without the web. We use it for almost everything: socializing, shopping, consuming media, research, the list goes on. However, the web is not accessible to all. Individuals with disabilities or impairments struggle to use the internet or are unable to. Unfortunately, the lack of standardized guidelines for proper website development and design has left the web full of obstacles and barriers. As a result, The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) was created to standardize web accessibility and develop universal guidelines for web content and applications, browsers, and authoring tools. Below, we will take a look at what you need to know as an online business owner and user about web accessibility, including:
- What is a Web Accessibility?
- What are the Requirements for Web Compliance?
- Web Accessibility Standards
- The Four Principles of Web Accessibility
- The Components of Web Accessibility
- Compliance and Legislation ADA
- Section 508
- How Can 216digital Help Your Website ADA Compliant?
What is Web Accessibility?
We have all experienced inconveniences of blurry images, websites not compatible with mobile devices, and slow-loading websites on the internet. While these issues may be annoying, they can completely restrict internet usage for individuals with disabilities or impairments.
Web accessibility helps aid in the development of perception, understanding, contribution, navigation, and interaction for individuals with disability or impairments on the internet. All individuals should have the same access to digital information regardless of their ability. Therefore, integrating accessibility into your website is vital for all customer experiences.
What are the Requirements for Web Compliance?
Before making your website accessible, you must first understand the standards, principles, and components that contribute to making a website accessible.
Web Accessibility Standards
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide an internationally shared standard for web content accessibility. Web content is the information on a web page or application, including text, images, sound, and code that defines a website’s structure or presentation.
There are two versions of WCAG currently applied: WCAG 2.0 and 2.1. WCAG 2.0 was published in 2008 but was not accepted by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) until 2012. 2.1 was published ten years later in 2018 to include all of the previously accepted standards of 2.0 with additional criteria. WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 are backward-compatible, meaning that content conforming to WCAG 2.1 follows WCAG 2.0.
Following the standards introduced by WCAG, websites’ success at implementing accessibility practices are classified into three levels of conformance, Level A, AA, and AAA.
Level A is the basic requirement and the minimum degree of accessibility that must be satisfied. Failure to fulfill will result in an inaccessible website.
This level addresses the more common web barriers individuals with impairments or disabilities face. In addition, Level AA is also the highest conformance required by most websites to remove the most significant accessibility barriers.
The highest level for accessibility under WCAG is level AAA. Unfortunately, it is also the most difficult to achieve. Achieving this level of compliance is desirable but is not necessary.
The Four Principles of Web Accessibility
The principles of web accessibility are the foundations for all content on the web and for anyone wanting to use it. WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 guidelines follow these four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust, also known as POUR. POUR is an acronym used to define functional accessibility in a website.
A website’s information and elements must be apparent to the user, leaving nothing undetectable or invisible. Most web users perceive the content and elements of a website through visuals. Sound or touch are used alternatively for those unable to. For instance, a well-written alternative text can help provide context to that missing viable information for individuals unable to visually perceive an image.
A website’s interactive elements such as controls, buttons, navigations, and more should be operable for all users. Users must operate the interface elements by first identifying those elements and physically selecting them. Those who cannot engage with interactive elements by clicking, tapping, swiping, or rolling use voice commands or other assistive devices. In other words, websites should not require actions that some users cannot perform. Some users won’t even use your website if they cannot function with a keyboard alone. These barriers can limit your website’s reach and create a poor user experience for all users.
Websites must be clear and concise in presenting predictable patterns within their use and design. Users should have no issue comprehending the meaning or purpose of information. The “understandable” principle also applies to user interaction elements such as buttons or other elements on your site. Everything should have a purpose and meaning and should be recognizable.
Content must be robust enough for users to understand the content’s function reliably using a wide variety of technologies, including assistive devices. Above all, as technologies advance, content within a website should remain accessible.
The lack of any of these four principles will make your website inaccessible. Therefore, the WCAG guidelines and standards branch out on these four principles into more detailed levels as discussed above, Levels A, AA, and AAA.
The Components of Web Accessibility
Accessibility is an aspect that covers every part of a website. The various components of a website should interconnect and complement one another for the site to function and be available for individuals with impairments or disabilities. These components include content, user agents, authoring tools, and evaluation tools.
Content encompasses all of the information on a website or web application, including elements on the front and back ends. The content consists of text, images, sounds, presentation, structure, and interactive features on the front-facing end. On the backside of a website, the scope includes the code, scripts, or markups assistive technologies use.
User agents act on behalf of a user, including web browsers, media players, plug-ins, and assistive technologies.
Authoring tools assist in creating digital content, such as blogs or code editors.
Evaluations tools can help determine how effective your accessibility attributes are and help to track your remediation efforts.
Compliance and Legislation
The growing awareness of digital accessibility as a civil right has increased dramatically. As a result, several countries have started to set web accessibility standards and regulations to pressure website owners to address these issues or face legal actions and public scrutiny. By complying with web accessibility legislation, you could mitigate a frivolous ADA lawsuit. Here are some of the more prominent laws and guidelines globally and in the United States.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, was passed on July 26th, 1990, in the United States to ensure equal and fair treatment for individuals with disabilities. The Act secures equal rights for people with disability in the fields of employment, state and local governments, public accommodations, telecommunication, and miscellaneous provisions. Therefore, these five fields are typically referred to as Title I, II, III, IV, and V of the ADA.
Title III states that all areas of public accommodation, such as hotels, schools, restaurants, and retailers, must secure equal access to services and information for all users. As the internet has evolved, websites and mobile apps have become essential places to shop, learn, share and connect. Therefore, new lawsuits under the Act have prompted the Department of Justice (DOJ) to expand the definition of areas of public accommodation to include websites and online applications. Therefore, any barriers prohibiting or limiting access to a website violates Title III.
As discussed prior, The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG, is the international accessibility standards established by the World Wide Web Consortium(W3C). The guidelines offer technical recommendations on how to make your website content accessible. Although WCAG is not enforceable, the guidelines have become the foundation of severe mandatory accessibility regulation around the world, including The United States Section 508,
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires all federal agencies in the United States to ensure that electronic and information technology is accessible to people with or without disabilities. The electronic and information communication technology subject within Section 508 includes websites, web applications, software, and digital documents. In 2018 Section 208 was updated to coordinate with the international accessibility standards of WCAG.
How Can 216digital Help Your Website ADA Compliant?
Becoming web-accessible can become confusing, intimidating, and costly, but knowing you are not alone is essential. Here at 216digital, we are passionate about web accessibility and ensure you are getting the most money. That is why we offer different ADA remediation services to fit what your website and business need now. In addition, we have teamed up with the National ADA law firm to understand better how furious lawsuits occur, what they target, and how to resolve this issue before it’s too late.
If you would like more information on web accessibility or how to make your website accessible today, schedule a15-minute complimentary website audit and consultation with our experts.