06 August 2023
In an increasingly digitized world, web accessibility has become an indispensable key to inclusion.
Web accessibility aims to ensure that all people, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, have access to and can interact with the internet and its many resources. It is about creating and designing websites, online applications, and digital tools that can be perceived, understood, navigated, and operated by everyone. In short, it's about inclusion.
At a time when almost all aspects of our lives, from education and work to shopping and socializing, are increasingly moving online, web accessibility is vital in ensuring equal opportunities and participation for everyone. Moreover, it highlights the social responsibility of companies and by 2025 legal requirements will be set for certain private companies (banks, insurance companies, etc.) to make their digital platforms accessible. Web accessibility not only improves the user experience but also increases user satisfaction, thus making business sense.
In short, web accessibility is more than just good design or best practice – it's the bridge to digital inclusion, making the internet accessible and useful to everyone.
What is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility most often refers to the principles and techniques described in WCAG 2.1, ensuring that web content and digital services are easily accessible and usable by everyone, regardless of their physical, sensory, or cognitive abilities. The goal of web accessibility is to eliminate barriers that might prevent interaction with or access to websites and to create an inclusive and adaptive online experience for all users.
Ensure Access for Everyone
Web accessibility covers various conditions. For instance, it includes ensuring web content is fully accessible to people with different visual and auditory conditions, including color blindness, low vision, or deafness. It also involves ensuring that web content can be navigated and understood by individuals with different cognitive abilities and that it can be interacted with by people with different physical abilities, including those using assistive devices like keyboards, touch screens, or voice commands.
Web accessibility is also significant for older individuals, those with temporary disabilities (e.g., a broken arm), or those experiencing barriers due to environmental conditions (e.g., sunlight on a screen or noisy surroundings). It even matters for users with low bandwidth or those using older technologies.
Web accessibility, therefore, is not only relevant for a specific group of people. Rather, it affects everyone using the internet, as it's about creating a more accessible, inclusive, and efficient experience for all users.
- WCAG 2.1 Standards and Guidelines
Web accessibility is most often governed by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. This updated version, set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), is a global benchmark for web accessibility.
The Four Fundamental Principles
WCAG 2.1 operates around four core principles essential for universal user access to web content:
- Perceivable: Content must be presented in a way users can perceive.
- Operable: Users must be able to interact with the content.
- Understandable: The information and operation of the user interface must be understandable.
- Robust: Content must be interpreted reliably by a wide range of user agents, including assistive technologies.
Each of these principles has associated guidelines and success criteria that describe in more detail how to achieve these goals. Read more about them at https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/
Application of WCAG 2.1 in Practice
Following these guidelines in practice involves various technical and editorial steps.
- Providing text alternatives for non-text content. Typically, where images have a good descriptive text in the form of alt text or it can also be on buttons/links and other graphical content through ARIA labels.
- Providing captions for audio content.
- Ensuring readability by separating foreground and background colors. You can also allow the user to define colors on the site.
- Making all features accessible from a keyboard. E.g., on our site, one can navigate through all site links using the TAB button and arrow keys.
- Giving users enough time to read and use content.
Once the technical parts are implemented, the rest of WCAG 2.1 depends a lot on those responsible for the content on the platform. Although there are certain possibilities to tag elements automatically, much must be filled out and created correctly by the platform's editor.
Benefits of Following WCAG 2.1
Compliance with the WCAG 2.1 guidelines not only makes your web content accessible to everyone. It can also help improve the overall user experience, enhance your SEO efficiency, and meet future legislative requirements.
Legislation on Web Accessibility
Several countries, beyond the EU, have already introduced laws and regulations that require digital platforms to be accessible to everyone. The Web Accessibility Act came into force in Denmark on 23 September 2018 and implements Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of public sector websites and mobile applications. This law requires public organizations to make their websites and mobile applications accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. The aim is to ensure that everyone has equal access to information and services online. You can read more about the law here: https://digst.dk/digital-service/webtilgaengelighed/lovgivning/
Implications for Companies
As the rules currently stand, there are no sanctions for private companies, as no legislation in this area exists yet (a new law is coming in 2025).
However, since this can limit access for a broad group of potential customers, it can naturally reduce a company's potential customer base. It is important for businesses to recognize that web accessibility is not just about meeting legal requirements. It is a fundamental human right that promotes inclusion and equality in the digital world.
By focusing on web accessibility, companies can improve their user experience, reach a wider audience, and create more inclusive digital environments.
Benefits of Web Accessibility for Companies
Improved Reputation and Customer Satisfaction
One of the primary benefits of investing in web accessibility is the potential to improve a company's reputation. When companies show that they are committed to making their services accessible to everyone, it sends a clear message about inclusion and equality, which can strengthen their brand image and attract positive public attention.
Furthermore, web accessibility can also enhance customer satisfaction. By ensuring that websites and digital services are easily accessible and usable by all, businesses can better cater to their customers' diverse needs and deliver a more satisfying user experience.
Expansion of Customer Base
Web accessibility can also help expand your company's customer base. By making web content accessible to people with different disabilities, the company opens the door to a broader demographic group of users, which can ultimately increase its reach and sales.
Improvement of SEO
Web accessibility also has the obvious advantage that it can help improve a company's SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Many of the practices involved in making a website accessible, such as using informative and relevant text, ensuring that web content is easy to navigate, and effectively using metadata, largely contribute to enhancing a website's visibility on search engines. Online visibility naturally helps companies reach a wider audience and thus drive more traffic to their website.
Web accessibility is not just a legal requirement; it's an investment in a company's future. By ensuring web accessibility, businesses not only promote inclusion and equality, but they can also enhance their reputation, expand their customer base, and boost visibility on search engines.
Web accessibility should be a priority for all businesses. Whether you are at the start of your web accessibility journey or looking to improve your current practices, it's never too late to take steps to make your web content more accessible and inclusive.
Looking to get started with web accessibility?
For businesses and public institutions that want to take their commitment to web accessibility to the next level, the first step is to actively work to understand and apply web accessibility standards, such as WCAG 2.1. Consider reviewing your current digital assets to identify areas that could be improved, and we naturally offer professional advice if needed. It's an ongoing process, but the effort will pay off in the long run.
To learn more about web accessibility, consider visiting the following resources:
W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1
A Guide to Web Accessibility for Designers
WebAIM: Web Accessibility in Mind
Here, you can find further information and guidance on how to make your web content more accessible to everyone.
We hope this blog on web accessibility will help you get off to a good start.
Of course, we can assist you with all aspects surrounding implementation, training, and strategy!