The Fundamentals of Web Accessibility Standards, Guidelines, and Compliance

In recent times there has been a major transformation for companies from conventional stores to online business. The gradual shift accelerated during the current COVID-19 pandemic since customers cannot visit the brick and mortar stores anymore. As the landscape of online business started growing, the need to make websites accessible to everyone became a necessity as well.

Businesses have realized that more than 20% of the American population lives with disabilities, which constitutes a large chunk of the target market. So companies have started making efforts towards understanding web accessibility standards and their guidelines. Businesses have also realized that failure to make their website accessible can result in legal compliance problems, and they may have to face a lawsuit.

Aspects of Web Accessibility

There are several aspects of a website that need to work together to ensure that it is accessible to people with disabilities.

  • The content needs to be optimized so that people with disabilities can access it without facing barriers.
  • Companies can also modify their website’s source codes or use software to make the content accessible.
  • Users with disabilities may not be able to use a mouse or keyboard. So they use assistive technologies to access websites, such as screen readers, Braille readers, speech recognition, and several others.

People Responsible for Making a Website Accessible

Although it is everyone’s responsibility to assist people living with disabilities, some people are responsible for optimizing online businesses. Designers and developers create the elements of the website and are responsible to ensure that they are accessible to people with different forms of disabilities as well as assistive technologies.

As a business owner, you may not be able to control how a person will access your website. Therefore you need to employ solutions that can make your website accessible to a wide array of disabilities. That includes the visually impaired, hard of hearing, cognitive disabilities, restricted movements, temporary disabilities, so on and so forth. Your company can go through an agile transformation to imbibe a culture of accessibility in your organization. You can also assign a core team that is responsible for ensuring that accessibility measures get implemented to the front as well as the back end of your organization.

Web Accessibility Laws and Guidelines

Before we look into the accessibility standards, let us first understand the laws and guidelines

Laws

The federal judges have decided that web accessibility falls under Article III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because a website is the virtual extension of a place of business and must be accessible to everyone. Therefore any online business must be ADA compliant. Section 508 also requires that all digital sites of Federal agencies must get optimized for accessibility, including companies that work with them.

Guidelines

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has issued a set of universal rules that form the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. There are three levels of the current WCAG 2.1 guidelines: A, AA, and AAA. Websites must achieve WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines to be ADA compliant.

Web Accessibility Standards Checklist

If you feel that it is a long list, remember that it is for your benefit as well. You can save yourself from an expensive lawsuit, increase your business, and make it more user friendly by making it accessible. These are some of the methods that must be a part of your checklist.

  • People with visual disorders may not be able to see the pictures on your website. So these images on your website must have descriptive alt text that can be read by screen readers and other assistive devices. Also, make sure that your website is accessible to keyboard navigation.
  • Colors can be tricky for people with visual impairments. Even if they can see, they may be color blind. So supportive indicators are essential that use more than colors to relay alerts and links such as an underline or a link description. For graphical representations, there must be patterns to differentiate between the variables.
  • Use optimal color contrasts. There are specific guidelines by WCAG 2.1 that specifies the optimum color contrast for accessibility.
  • The structure must get optimized with headings and landmarks. They are essential for blind users to navigate through your website. R content should also follow a predictable sequence.
  • Videos and other media files must have appropriate captions and transcripts.
  • Any supporting content, such as word or PDF documents, must get optimized for accessibility.
  • If there are any third party software and plugins on your website, they must get optimized for accessibility.

As you can see, it is not an overwhelming list. Achieving maximum accessibility standards is not as difficult as it was in the earlier days. You can use an AI-powered compliance software to optimize your site without making too many changes to the source code. It is an effective and cost-efficient way of making your website accessible to your customers with disabilities.