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Why web accessibility is a win/win

by Brett Horan
on 27 Sep, 2018

The Internet and digital services are undoubtedly an essential part of our everyday lives. Today and in the future, making digital platforms accessible to everyone regardless of their physical abilities or age is becoming increasingly important, especially for those who provide health, community and financial services.

The idea of digital inclusion, where no one is left behind or disadvantaged in a digital world is vital, as many traditional services and basic everyday functions are moved online. Digital accessibility is something that our team are incredibly passionate about and aim to implement across as many projects as possible.

Google admits that usability (combined with topic relevance) is an important variable for ranking consideration. Their accessibility guidelines stipulate that sites should be available to all users, no matter how they choose to access your content.

If Google is going to reward us with better rankings for accessibility compliance, it’s a no brainer that we should all be building our websites in this way.

 

What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility is the process of designing and developing websites, tools, and technologies so that all members of the community can use them equally.

Accessibility makes your website easier for everyone to understand, read and navigate. However, most importantly it makes your content available to people with a wide range of disabilities. These might include visual, physical, auditory, speech, cognitive, language, learning and neurological disabilities. It also makes your content more usable for older people, whose abilities may decline with age.

The standard measure of the accessibility of a website is based on the recommendations of the Web content accessibility guidelines version 2.1 developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). This gives site owners and developers detailed instructions on how to attain A, AA or even AAA level accessibility scores for their websites.

Our designers developed a logo for DPV Health with accessibility guidelines top of mind. Watch the breakdown of accessibility compliance in each colour variance for an overarching AA W3C accessibility score.

DPV logo accessibility guideline colour breakdown

 

Which businesses need an accessible website?

Developers are increasingly focusing on building websites that will work with assistive technologies, such as screen readers.

Government agencies are required to comply with WCAG 2.1 and ensure their digital services are “accessible to users regardless of their ability and environment”.

Any business operating in the Health Industry and who use their website to communicate important information about their services need to make their website accessible to all.

These might include:

  • Local healthcare and local medical centres;
  • Health insurance companies;
  • Local councils;
  • Providers of community services; and
  • Providers of services for the elderly.

Banking and Finance groups must also take note – in fact, anyone with an interest in making their information available to the wide range of people possible needs to incorporate the essentials of good accessibility practises.

 

Who benefits from an accessible website?

In one word, everyone.

Accessibility has proven to improve web functionality dramatically, regardless of the intended audience. Improved usability will draw consumers to your site, encourage them to navigate for longer and greatly improve their chance of converting.

Ultimately, accessibility draws more traffic and increases the awareness and engagement of users with your website online.

Accessibility compliance will not only help your company achieve its business goals, but improve its overall image and promote a positive and inclusive internal culture. There are significant public relations benefits of demonstrating the corporate social responsibility (CSR) values associated with complying with W3C accessibility standards, and your business can reap the workplace cultural benefits of an inclusive workplace that supports employees with disabilities or age considerations.

 

List of accessibility benefits including faster download time, inclusivity and usability

 

In short, your business can better address the needs of its consumers, grow its customer base, promote a positive image and build an inclusive culture all with the help of web accessibility.

The benefits of web accessibility are endless and including accessibility standards in your digital strategy should be a priority for all businesses.

Let’s take a closer look into how you can build an accessible website.

 

Why is UX important?

User experience (UX) design is the process of defining a website structure and navigation pathways to make the whole process of interacting with a brand intuitive and easy.

Marketers are increasingly investing in UX in order to build higher product satisfaction, recognising the bottom line benefits of improving usability, accessibility and pleasure in the interaction with the product or service offering.

When it comes to visual usability online, contrast is vital.

Consideration needs to go into the font choices and colours you choose for backgrounds, highlights, buttons and text. Your website should be visually useable, so consider the colours you use for body text and headings, the size of text (and the ability to resize it) and how your text interacts with background colours or images.

Here is an example of our teams accessibility-conscious ‘text toggle’ that featured on the healthAbility website.

healthAbility website gif that displays the varying text size toggle function

 

This doesn’t mean your site must be black text on white backgrounds, but you need to consider how backgrounds may interfere with legibility of text when designing your site.

Consider your audience and how important this will be to them, and how frustrating not considering this contrast may be.

Light coloured text will work well on a dark background, but as you start to introduce lighter shades and colours of different tone and depth you need to keep assessing contrast levels until to get it right.

Accessibility 'pass or fail' contrast examples

Here’s a little mantra to keep you on track: red and green should not be seen, black and blue make a fool of you.

 

Make your site easy to operate

If accessibility is important then you need to create content that is easy to read and navigate around to find information. Your site should be easy to understand by someone with, at minimum, a lower secondary school education.

Keep text simple – readable and understandable.

Use short sentences and avoid using unusual words, jargon or abbreviations without providing a clear explanation of what they mean.

Don’t be too clever for your readers.

You want a predictable website which uses common elements found throughout the Internet – easy to find navigation, descriptive text for each page, titles and headings, and context around links.

Provide help text and explanations.

Help users navigate through parts of the site that need their input, such as forms. When errors are made, give detailed descriptions of what is missing from the form. Label form fields so they are easy to find and it is easy to understand what is required.

 

Make your site robust

Building a robust website is not just about meeting the requirements of current browsers and screen reader tools, but making sure you site meets best practise requirements so it is most likely to be able to be used with future technologies.

Make sure you developer understands the importance of clean and correct coding – giving each element a complete start and end tag, and avoiding duplication. Standard HTML will meet this criteria if it is used properly.

We recommend you download this helpful Melbourne University Accessibility Guideline checklist to assist in coordinating your accessibility action plan:
AA Accessibility Guidelines Checklist

 

Where to from here?

Thirst Creative has experience in assessing websites for accessibility and making recommendations to fix major issues and bring your existing site up to minimum standards.

Not sure if your website meets the criteria needed for your key audiences? Contact us now!


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