Accessibility is a term which refers to the ability for people of all abilities and backgrounds to access and interact with websites, applications, and other digital tools. It includes people with disabilities, those with different language abilities and cultural backgrounds, those using different devices and operating systems, and people with disabilities who need assistive technologies such as screen-reading software.
In the digital landscape, accessibility can be used to refer to two distinct aspects of the user experience: content and design. Content-level accessibility addresses the usability of the content (or text, images, audio, and video) on a site or in an application. Design-level accessibility addresses the visual design, navigation structure, and code.
Accessibility is a broad term that describes the ways in which an environment or product is accessible to people with disabilities. It can include physical accessibility (such as providing ramps, elevators, walkways, and other accommodations) as well as digital accessibility (such as making sure a website is navigable, readable, and understandable to screen reader software as well as people with cognitive impairments, vision impairments, and other disabilities).
Better accessibility leads to better interaction with technologies, better usability, and a better overall user experience. Ultimately, it should allow people with disabilities to be able to access websites, apps, and other digital technologies, equipping them with the same level of freedom and control that everyone else has.
Accessibility is an important consideration for web designers, developers, and website operators to factor into their workflows when creating digital products, tools, and services. Many laws have been established to help companies comply with more elaborate accessibility guidelines. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, a globally recognized accessibility standard, provides detailed guidelines and best practices for achieving maximum usability across a wide range of users and technologies.
Generally speaking, the most important aspects of digital accessibility involve making sure that all pages can be read by a screen reader, making sure that all visual elements are labelled for non-visual users, and ensuring that all controls and functions can be operated by keyboard.
General Guidelines and Best Practices
- Hierarchy: Establish a clear hierarchy of headings and titles using HTML tags, including H1, H2 and H3 tags.
- Contrast: Make sure there is sufficient contrast between foreground and background colors, using colors that don’t cause visual stress.
- Navigation: Make it easy for users to navigate the site without needing to rely on a mouse. This involves ensuring that there are large clickable elements, keyboard navigation is available, and links are clearly labeled.
- Feedback: Provide consistent and up-to-date feedback about user interactions.
- Text: Use large, legible fonts and a readable font family, and avoid including images with text in them since they are mostly inaccessible to screen reader users.
- Controls: Make sure all interactive controls can be activated and manipulated comfortably by keyboard.
- Links: Clearly identify links, provide readable titles, and use descriptive phrases that make sense out of context.
- Colours: Use non-colour, non-text dependent indicators for formatting.
- Tables: Ensure data tables are easy to comprehend, use descriptive titles, and make sure all table elements are clearly identified with HTML.
- Responsiveness: Ensure content can be viewed, read, and fully understood across different devices and window sizes.