Why website accessibility should be part of your DE&I agenda

In the previous segment of our Web Accessibility Standards series, we delved into the significance of website accessibility and its profound impact on user experience. In this installment, we’ll dig deeper and explore a set of crucial guidelines that can be deployed to gauge and enhance your website’s accessibility, making it a welcoming digital space for everyone.

In May 2018, a pivotal transformation occurred within the landscape of web accessibility. The 508 Standards underwent a significant update, aligning themselves with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA success criteria. This update encompassed a comprehensive framework of 12 guidelines, each accompanied by testable success criteria, amounting to a total of 61 points. These guidelines and criteria have been thoughtfully grouped into the acronym POUR, representing the core principles that underpin accessibility:

Perceivable
Operable
Understandable
Robust

For your website to be perceivable, the information and the website itself must be presented in a way that users can comprehend. It encompasses more than mere visibility; it extends to ensuring that the content can be consumed by individuals with varying degrees of sensory perception. For example, some websites include invisible information or code that is not intended for the user: in the past, some websites would include invisible blocks of text that included keywords to boost search engine rankings. This would not pass accessibility standards, as a screen reader may read the invisible text, but anyone visiting that page would not be able to view the invisible text.

Operability, the second tenet of web accessibility, is concerned with the usability of a website’s interface, components, and navigation mechanisms. A website that relies solely on mouse-based interaction is inherently limiting for users who navigate using keyboards, voice commands, or other assistive technologies. To adhere to accessibility standards, make sure that user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design cater to a diverse array of interaction modes, fostering a seamless and intuitive navigation process that transcends physical input methods.

For your website to be understandable, all users, regardless of their backgrounds or abilities, should be able to decipher the information presented on a website and effectively operate its functionalities. This entails using clear and concise language, intuitive navigation structures, and explicit instructions. Ensuring that complex concepts are explained in a manner that is universally graspable enhances the overall inclusivity of the website.

The final pillar, robustness, underscores the significance of creating content that can be reliably interpreted by a wide range of user agents, including both human users and assistive technologies. In a rapidly evolving technological landscape, websites must be adaptable to various devices, browsers, and assistive tools to ensure consistent and seamless access for all users.

As technology evolves and design paradigms shift, the techniques for achieving web accessibility continually evolve as well. However, amidst these changes, the fundamental principles, guidelines, and success criteria remain steadfast. These principles offer an enduring framework upon which to build a digital environment that transcends barriers and fosters equal access and engagement for all individuals.

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