User Experience (UX)

The Essential Guide to Web Accessibility: Why It Matters and How to Achieve It

August 18, 2023

In today's digital landscape, the importance of web accessibility cannot be overstated. An accessible website is designed to be usable by everyone, including individuals with disabilities. This not only enhances the user experience for a broader audience but also ensures compliance with legal standards and promotes social responsibility.

What is Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility refers to the inclusive practice of designing websites and web applications that are usable by people of all abilities and disabilities. This includes individuals with visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive impairments. The goal is to create a digital environment where everyone can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the web.

Why Web Accessibility Matters

1. Inclusivity and Equal Access

Over 1 billion people worldwide live with some form of disability. An accessible website ensures that these individuals have the same access to information and services as anyone else. This aligns with the broader principles of inclusivity and equality, fostering a more inclusive society.

2. Legal Compliance

Many countries have enacted laws and regulations mandating web accessibility. In the UK the accessibility of websites is covered by the Equality Act 2010. This protects all individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society. Site owners are required to make 'reasonable adjustments' to make their sites accessible to people with disabilities.

3. Improved SEO and Reach

Accessible websites often perform better in search engine rankings. Features like alt text for images, proper heading structures, and descriptive link texts not only aid assistive technologies but also enhance SEO. This means that accessible websites are more likely to reach a wider audience, including those without disabilities.

4. Enhanced User Experience

Designing with accessibility in mind generally leads to a better overall user experience. Features that improve accessibility, such as clear navigation, readable text, and logical content structure, benefit all users, making websites more user-friendly and efficient.

5. Corporate Social Responsibility

Businesses that prioritise accessibility demonstrate a commitment to corporate social responsibility. This can enhance brand reputation, build customer loyalty, and set a positive example for industry peers.

Key Elements of an Accessible Website

1. Semantic HTML

Using semantic HTML helps screen readers and other assistive technologies understand the structure and content of a webpage. Tags like <header>, <nav>, <main>, and <footer> provide meaningful context that enhances accessibility.

2. Alternative Text for Images

Alt text descriptions for images are crucial for visually impaired users who rely on screen readers. These descriptions should convey the content and purpose of the images effectively.

3. Keyboard Accessibility

Ensure that all interactive elements on your website, such as links, buttons, and forms, are accessible via keyboard. This is essential for users who cannot use a mouse.

4. ARIA Landmarks

Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) landmarks help define regions of a webpage, making it easier for users with assistive technologies to navigate.

5. Colour Contrast and Readability

Maintain sufficient colour contrast between text and background to ensure readability. This is particularly important for users with visual impairments or colour blindness.

Steps to Improve Web Accessibility

1. Conduct an Accessibility Audit

Regularly review your website using automated tools and manual testing to identify and address accessibility issues. Tools like WAVE and Accessibility Checker can be helpful starting points.

2. Implement WCAG Guidelines

Follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to ensure your website meets international accessibility standards. These guidelines provide a comprehensive framework for making web content more accessible.

3. Educate Your Team

Ensure that everyone involved in the web development process understands the importance of accessibility and is trained to implement best practices.

4. User Testing

Involve users with disabilities in your testing process to gain valuable insights into the accessibility and usability of your website.

5. Continuous Improvement

Accessibility is an ongoing effort. Regularly update and refine your website to address new challenges and leverage emerging technologies.

Let's make the web a fun space for everyone

Web accessibility is not just a legal requirement or a technical challenge; it is a fundamental aspect of creating an inclusive digital world. By prioritising accessibility, we ensure that everyone, regardless of their abilities, can access and benefit from the wealth of information and services available online.

Investing in accessibility is investing in a better, more inclusive web for everyone. Let's make the internet a place where no one is left behind.

Lauren Allen