In this, the first of two articles on the topic of accessibility, we will unpack the basics of web accessibility and explore who will benefit. In our second article on the topic of accessibility, we will discuss why we should be doing better, and how to get started.
So What is Web Accessibility?
Let’s start at the start. The term web accessibility refers to the practice of designing and building websites so that they can be accessed and operated by everyone - regardless of their ability or situation. This is a really important point to take in. It’s a human right in Australia (and around the world) to access information without exclusion - and it’s no different when it comes to the web.
We are going to look into what ‘accessed by everyone’ means in a moment, but first here is a shortlist of common misconceptions around web accessibility:
- Accessibility is for only for blind people
- Disabled people are all in wheelchairs
- I don't know anyone with a disability
- We don’t have anyone like that using our website
- We don’t have enough time/budget for accessibility
- Accessibility is only for Government
On that note, let’s look at who accessibility is actually for.
Who Are We Talking About Here?
People are different. So are their impairments. 1 in 5 Australians have a disability (more than four million people), and 1 in 3 of those people has a severe or profound disability.
‘People with disabilities’ refers to many groups of people who identify as having limited or impaired abilities - they may be cognitive, motor, hearing or vision-related, or a combination of these. They may be temporary or long-term, mild or severe. Impairments fall into these three groups:
- Visual and hearing, including low vision, colour blindness and other forms of poor eyesight.
- Mobility, including difficulty or inability to use the hands, including tremors, muscle slowness, loss of fine muscle control, etc.
- Cognitive/intellectual, including developmental or learning disabilities (dyslexia, etc.), and cognitive disabilities affecting memory, attention, problem-solving and logic skills.
- Sometimes people are in situations that limit their ability to hear, see, use their hands, concentrate, understand instructions, etc. Sometimes they are using devices that have limitations in size, input interface, and so on. Think someone with a wrist injury, or watching video content on their phone on the train without sound.
In addition to those identifying as disabled, let’s consider the social, economic, cultural, language and age factors of our users as well. Nearly half (49%) of all Australians were either born overseas or had at least one parent who was born overseas. This means we all have vastly different experiences, access to technology and literacy levels.
To help us design and build accessible websites for the broad range of users above, we have a set of comprehensive guidelines - a benchmark for web accessibility best practice.
What Are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines?
Read on here