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Website Accessibility. Why should you care?

December 18, 2019

hundreds of multi-colored hot air balloons

What is website accessibility?

Accessibility is the practice of making products and services available to the greater population by providing multiple opportunities to interact with such. Accessibility is not about designing solely for those with disabilities, but rather taking into account the needs of all potential users through consideration of all human ability.

Accessibility is an umbrella under which sits inclusive design: the process of implementing design practices that draw on the range of human diversity. This methodology includes principles that benefit user-experience by putting into effect design choices that are inclusive.

The best aspect of inclusive design is that it benefits nearly everyone.

When websites are designed and developed through inclusive practices, generally all users have greater opportunity for access. Inclusive design choices can be helpful to others who encounter situational or temporary disabilities.

For example:

  1. Placing subtitles in videos for people who are deaf or hard of hearing also helps people who are in a noisy place (situational)
  2. Providing buttons that are large enough to click on help people with motor skills limitations, but also someone with a broken hand (temporary)

When it comes to technology, we must consider all platforms through which people may access information. Web accessibility is a subcategory of accessibility in which inclusive design practices are applied directly to web media. This takes into consideration how people perceive, understand, and navigate information on the web.

Why is it important?

Roughly 15% of the world’s population has some kind of disability, and the development of inclusive websites creates a web platform for equal access to people with diverse abilities. Some of the disabilities that must be taken into consideration when designing for the web are:

• Auditory • Cognitive • Physical • Visual

Every person is unique, and that includes the fluidity in which the word disability manifests itself. Catering to every single person is impossible, but we can do our best to consider and implement interactions that minimize the possibility of exclusion.
Designing inclusive and accessible websites are beneficial for various reasons: not only do they allow for a greater user base, but they also improve overall user experience. Accessibility barriers that inhibit access to information and interaction are a purposeful exclusion of part of the population – which is breaking the law.

Laws that protect those with disabilities and ensure equal access to information in the United States include: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which encompasses section 508.

ADA: This civil rights law ensures that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities, which means that inaccessible websites can be seen as discriminatory against people with disabilities. Domino’s recently felt the heat.

Section 508: This section ensures that all government information be accessible and presents web standards that are accessibility compliant.

The rest of the world cares too.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is a more global approach. It was a collaboration from individuals and organizations around the world in order to provide a shared standard for web accessibility. These expectations are defined as guidelines that help guarantee improvement towards a more accessible web.

Efforts have grown to protect the rights of those with disabilities, but societal efforts start with wanting to make a difference. A shift in perspective must happen in order for change to happen, so the potential to ignore the range of human ability then becomes minimal. Embracing human diversity in all of its forms leads to better understanding the impact that our creations leave behind.

While these laws enforce inclusive practices, there are still countless websites that are not accessible. For accessibility to be successful one must develop a mindset that supports inclusive behaviors. By placing inclusive design in the root of every creative process, one can be sure that experiences are built to unify people and embrace individuality.

The drive behind designing inclusively should be one thing: doing the right thing.

“Good design is inclusive, and inclusive design is good” – Dan Salcius

Part 1 of 3 on Website Accessibility by Carolina Pereira. Next up: Make your website more accessible.

We design accessible websites. Ask us about some of our latest accessibility challenges. Email Gavin Braman at gavin@driftingcreatives.com for more information on getting your website ADA and Section 508 compliant.

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