Ellinoora Ikäheimo

By Ellinoora Ikäheimo

UX and Service Designer

ellinoora.ikaheimo@vincit.fi

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Accessibility does not only maximize the number of potential users in web and mobile applications, but it also supports equality and social inclusion by making sure that the internet is for everyone. After reading this blog post, you’ll know what accessibility means and why it is important to take into account when creating digital content.

According to the World Health Organization, there are more than a billion people in the world who experience disability. That is approximately 15% of the entire population. Count their families in, and you can double or triple the number of people who are affected by these disabilities. It is time we start talking about accessibility on the same scale as user experience, brand, and usability. It affects so many people that it is not only the right thing to do, but it would also be unwise for businesses to exclude such a large amount of potential customers.

Equal access to web content is no rocket science

By taking accessibility into consideration, you make sure that the user experience that your web content is offering is, in fact, a pleasant experience for all, including individuals with physical, visual, auditory, cognitive, and neurological disabilities. As said, this group of people makes approximately 15% of the population. Other large groups also benefit from accessibility, such as people with temporary disabilities and stress. The good news is that equal access to web content is not rocket science.

Some of the most common accessibility challenges are related to navigation and site structure. Navigation equals access to content and it should be easy and consistent throughout the web service. For example, on a website, all the links traversing the user to a new page or content are most commonly tabbable. This information is easy to see, but once the content is used by a blind person, the same information can be passed on through screen readers. This way, a visually impaired user will be aware of the same navigation possibilities as anyone else. Screen readers can give users the information of all visual elements as long as the information has been provided at the code level.

Once the web content adapts to the major disability categories, it benefits almost everyone else, too. Well organized content, helpful images, good contrast, and clear language and navigation possibilities are simply helpful to everyone. While captions in a video are a must for deaf users, they can also be useful for those viewing the video without audio.

Accessibility is part of usability 

Good usability equals to overall user satisfaction, efficiency, effectiveness, intuitiveness, and memorability. Without considering accessibility, you can never meet these goals with all of your users. Accessibility means that digital material is accessible for everyone, including those with disabilities. In the same way that there are guidelines and tools for creating good usability for your web product, there are guidelines and tools for accessibility. In a nutshell, the definition of accessible mobile and web content is:

  • Perceivable. The content is available to be seen or heard.
  • Operable. The content can be operated by clicking, typing, or by voice.
  • Understandable. The content is clear, and the language is simple.
  • Robust. The content is operable with different assisting software.

Legislation and guidelines

Web accessibility is starting to be affected not only by guidelines but also on a legislative level. Most countries provide laws to protect the civil rights of disabled people in the physical world, and now the legislation is finally starting to extend to the digital world, too. Websites have been sued for not being accessible in the U.S., and EU directives are gradually beginning to come into force between 2019 and 2021. These directives will especially affect the public sector, and public organizations will need to monitor and rethink their accessibility strategy to comply with the directive.

The most commonly used guideline and shared standard for measuring accessibility is called WCAG, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. WCAG is a technical standard primarily targeted to web developers, web designers, and others who want or need a guideline for web accessibility. The latest guidelines, WCAG 2.1, provide material about accessibility in layers. The first layer presents the main principles of accessibility: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. The main principles are supported by general guidelines, testable success criteria, and a wide collection of advisory techniques.

There are three levels of accessibility conformance: A (lowest), AA, and AAA (highest). A conformance level is achieved once the web content satisfies the success criteria of that exact level and the ones below it. Testing is carried out through a combination of human evaluation and automated testing.

To Conclude 

Accessibility shouldn’t be an afterthought in software development. It should be adapted to the development work from the beginning. To get more in-depth insight into tackling accessibility from a  developer’s viewpoint, check out Tuukka Ojala’s blog post: Suck less: A quick introduction to accessibility

If you want to know how accessible your website is or wish to develop something completely new that everyone can use – don’t hesitate to ask us for more information. Our goal here at Vincit is grand but straightforward: to build a better tomorrow for everyone.

Checklist for getting started with accessibility:

  • Be aware of the current accessibility guidelines and legislation that affects your business
  • Take accessibility into consideration from the beginning of your software development project
  • Use user tests in addition to automated testing. Have users test your product already in the early stages to ensure that you are heading in the right direction
  • Consider doing a technical audit for your current product to map out the current technical problems and flaws

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