You are making your website’s content accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. But how do you let them know?
An accessibility statement is a way to show your commitment to web accessibility. It provides your users with information about your accessibility plans, letting them know what to expect and what steps they can take if they encounter problems with your online content. But what is an accessibility statement — and does your website need one?
Below, we explore the key components of an effective web accessibility statement, why they are crucial, and how to create one for your website.
What Are Accessibility Statements?
An accessibility statement is a document or webpage on your site that shows your dedication to making the web inclusive for everyone. It’s like a formal promise to ensure that all users, no matter their abilities, can easily use your online content.
In general, it states that your website follows specific standards for accessibility, like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). It provides detailed information about your website’s accessibility goals and the steps your company is taking to achieve them.
Think of it as a way to bridge your efforts to make your website accessible and your users’ understanding of those efforts. It’s like a virtual handshake, showing your users that you care about their experience on your site and that you’re working hard to improve it.
Why are Accessibility Statements Important?
Accessibility statements offer a range of benefits, not only for users but also for website owners.
Here are some of the benefits:
Your Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion
An accessibility statement is a tangible way to show your users that you care about their needs — providing them equal access to products, services, and company information.
By proactively communicating your company’s commitment to accessibility will foster trust and loyalty among your potential and existing customers. This can create new opportunities for those who may otherwise not be able to enjoy certain products or services due to a disability.
Accessibility statements provide users with contact information they can use if they encounter problems. This feedback can be invaluable in addressing specific issues and making your website more user-friendly.
Legal and Ethical Compliance
In many countries, there are legal requirements to make digital content accessible. Publishing an accessibility statement is a step toward compliance. It can be used as evidence of your commitment should the need arise.
Reduce Legal Risk
To the potential plaintiff firm, an accessibility statement serves as a flag to say, “We’re on this. Move along”. There is so much ripe low-hanging fruit that most will skip to the next website on the list.
Transparency is key to building trust with your audience. Your accessibility statement should reflect your efforts, showcasing your organization’s values and ethics.
Writing an Accessibility Statement
Writing a solid web accessibility statement comes down to the chosen language, structure, and content.
Accessibility statements are for users of your content — not lawyers or web developers. It is important to make your accessibility statement easy to understand for everyone, regardless of their background or expertise. This means avoiding technical jargon and using clear, simple language while providing useful information.
If you need to refer to a specialized term or phrase, clearly define its functionality and known limitations so readers understand them. For example, words like “WCAG Success Criterion 1.2.2 was not met” may not be familiar to everyone. Instead, it’s essential to explain them in a way that is easy to comprehend, such as “videos do not have captions.”
Language should also be clear and avoid assumptions about a person’s abilities. Therefore, statements should be written from a third-person perspective and in a professional tone.
Use words that are matter-of-fact and avoid language that could be seen as condescending or patronizing. This will help ensure that all users feel respected and valued and that your commitment to accessibility is communicated in a positive and inclusive way.
Accessibility statements should follow this format:
- Use bold fonts or highlighted phrases to emphasize important parts of the statement. This will make it easier for readers to understand the message.
- Usually, italics are used to highlight technical terms or words related to the WCAG standards mentioned in the statement.
- Instead of long paragraphs, use lists with bullets or numbers to organize and present the main points.
- Add alt text to meaningful images if they are relevant.
The content in an accessibility statement needs to be checked and kept current to make sure it stays accurate and reflects any changes or enhancements made to a website as time goes on.
The W3C-WAI offers a set of details to put in an Accessibility Statement. Normally, these statements include the following:
- Clearly state your commitment to making your website accessible to all users.
- Make it clear what accessibility standard is applied, such as WCAG 2.2
- Provide contact information, like a phone number or email address, for users to reach out if they face any issues.
Depending on your content, you may also want to include other relevant information:
- Summarize your efforts toward web accessibility.
- Environments in which the content has been tested to work, such as specific web browsers or operating systems
- Identify any known barriers or accessibility limitations. Explain the steps you plan to take to improve accessibility, such as ongoing audits, training, and user testing.
- Include a disclaimer that addresses your 3rd party plug-ins or social media sites.
- List the date the accessibility statement was last updated.
You can include as much information as you want, but remember that people will read your Accessibility Statement to find out how accessible your content is. Avoid adding irrelevant content, such as promoting products or services.
Do I Need an Accessibility Statement to be Compliant?
In most cases, the answer is yes. Conformance with accessibility standards, like WCAG, is essential for ensuring an inclusive online experience. While WCAG doesn’t require websites to publish an Accessibility Statement, some non-discrimination laws do.
For example, the European Union’s Web Accessibility Directive requires public websites in the EU to publish Accessibility Statements that follow an established format.
However, suppose one of your goals is compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In that case, it’s still best to publish an Accessibility Statement even if it isn’t legally required.
An accessibility statement serves as proof of your compliance and your dedication to meeting these standards. A well-written statement can help you show that you value users and your commitment to web accessibility.
What If Our Website Isn’t Accessible Yet? Should We Still Publish a Statement?
Having an accessibility statement on your website is essential, even if your website is not yet fully accessible. It shows your users that you acknowledge the issue and are committed to making your website more accessible.
If your site has not been fully audited and remediated, then to start, you’re going to want to express your intent…. “we are in the process of…. our goal is to…” Your statement should convey your plans to improve and address accessibility issues. Being transparent about the areas where your site falls short and your dedication to improvement can help build trust with your users and demonstrate your commitment to accessibility.
Where to Publish an Accessibility Statement?
Your accessibility statement should be easy to find on your website. Consider placing it in the footer, help menu, and other prominent areas where users can readily find it. Additionally, you should use consistent link names for your accessibility statements to help users recognize them. For example, if the link in your footer is labeled “Accessibility Statement,” so should the link in your help menu.
Make a Statement with 216digital
Accessibility is not just a checkbox; it’s an ongoing journey that requires transparency, communication, and dedication to ensuring a more inclusive online space.
At 216digital, our team is committed to helping you take the steps towards web accessibility on your terms by developing a strategy to integrate WCAG 2.2 compliance into your development roadmap. We offer comprehensive services that not only audit your website for accessibility but also provide solutions to meet ADA compliance requirements.
To learn what more you should do to achieve and maintain accessibility for your terms, schedule a Complimentary ADA Strategy Briefing with the experts at 216digital.