What is accessibility?

The easy way to visualise the topic is when described as “don’t build stairs to public toilets”. That’s the analogue world, in the digital world some people have difficulty reading, others have difficulty hearing. Some people see the balance in colours, others can’t.

An effort should be made to present content in formats accessible to everyone. This starts with the government (where there’s a legal obligation for people who don’t understand it this way) but it’s in the interests of any organisation to have an accessible web presence.

Barriers in Information

Inaccessible websites frustrate users and create barriers to information. Content should be written in simple English. It should be consumable and digestible, regardless of whether the end-user is reading or having the text read to them. The limits of text-to-speech are the limits of some user’s comprehension.

Why does accessibility matter?

  • 2.4 million people in the UK have a manual dexterity issue and use their keyboard to navigate.
  • Over 2 million people in the UK like with sight loss and need to use a screen reader.
  • 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning difficulty and need alternative formats to understand content.
  • 19% of the UK population have hearing loss and rely on captions for audio content.
  • 10% of the UK population are dyslexic and would benefit from simple writing styles and formats.
  • 8% of men and 0.5% of women are colour blind and may not be able to read fonts with certain colour contrasts.

It’s important to take these points into consideration when designing websites or creating content. It’s best for everyone involved to consider these things from the first day of a project to ensure that everyone gets the same information no matter how they consume it.

Essentially, as many people as possible should be able to use your website. That means you should be able to:

  • change colours, contrast levels and fonts
  • zoom in up to 300% without text dropping off the screen
  • navigate most of the website using just a keyboard
  • navigate most of the website using speech recognition software
  • listen to most of the website using a screen reader (including the most recent versions of JAWS, NVDA and VoiceOver)

In Norway, it’s required by law that all websites, public and private sector are accessible and airlines faced €15.00 per day fines. WCAG was in the headlines and very quickly everyone was on board.

If those reasons don’t convince you, it’s also required by law that public sector websites are accessible to an AA standard. As of 2022, UK lawsuits aren’t resulting in fines but they may be soon. We’re happy to help you make the changes needed to get your site compliant.

How do we do this?

Just like anything in tech, the answer is “it depends”. It depends what tools and systems were originally used to build your website. There are design systems and UI libraries which can make the process of building accessible applications easier but the fact of the matter is that most websites aren’t built using those systems.

If we can manually edit your code, that’s achievable. If it comes from a plugin or extension, it’s often more appropriate to find an accessible alternative because if we directly edit plugin code and the plugin gets updated without fixing the accessibility issues then our edits are lost.

Ideally, the whole site is reviewed before launch. It’s natural to make accessibility mistakes in creating content, we’re only human after all! That just means that over time the level of usability of the site is going to be reduced and every now and then an accessibility review is necessary. Regular accessibility reports will inform you when it’s necessary to review the content on your site.

As part of our process we’re happy to train your content creators in making accessible content. If everyone is aware of the potential problems then we can work to avoid them.