Accessibility Is Now Gaining Focus
The pandemic has caused us to rethink how work is accomplished, and as a result, there is now greater flexibility around the use of digital capacities in terms of work from home, virtual conferences and many more. The digital interface is now key to deliver information to everyone, more than before. The evolution of digital age requires content to be accessible to everyone; around 15% of the world population is differently-abled. Thus, it is of utmost important to ensure the content is accessible to such section of the society. Content accessibility ensure that everyone can perceive clearly, understand fully, engage effectively, navigate easily, and nimbly interact with the technologies supporting the content, despite the variability of the device medium (i.e., mobile, desktop, etc.).
What Constitutes Accessibility
Digital accessibility is the practice that enables websites, web applications, and digital content can be used by everyone visiting the digital page(s), despite the diversity of hearing, movement, vision, or cognitive capabilities and challenges. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that more than a billion people, globally, carry some form of physical challenge.This amounts to nearly 15% of the world population. Moreover, it is estimated that 40% of people living with physical challenges do not have access to the assistance they require to conduct their basic daily activities.
In essence, accessibility is about making it simple for everyone to obtain the same information; take part in the same interactions; and be able to fully enjoy the same services .
Compounding factors are the rise in chronic diseases and an aging population in many parts of the world. Thus, the fact that a vast swath of websites are difficult to use for various segments of users in terms of font size, use of colors, lack of assistive technologies, etc., is a cause of serious concern. Making websites accessible not only creates a positive impact on the users’ morale, but also makes good business sense for companies.
The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) proposes standards to help perceive and implement accessibility. According to W3C, web accessibility standards rely on several elements that function together. Some of the key ones are:
- Web content – Any part of a website, including textual content, images, forms, and any multimedia. Also covered are markup codes, scripts, any applications, etc.
- User agents – software used to access web content, covering desktop graphical browsers, voice browsers, any mobile phone browsers, multimedia players, other plug-ins, and any assistive technologies.
- Authoring tools – software services used to create web content, covering code editors, document conversion tools, any content management systems, blogs, any database scripts, etc.
Thus, W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) stipulate that content should be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (or POUR). Perceivable means that information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive. That is, it cannot be invisible to all of an individual’s senses. Operable signifies that users must be able to operate the interface effectively.
Understandable means that users must be able to understand both the information and the operation of the user interface. Finally, Robust signifies that content should be designed such that it can be interpreted dependably by a wide range of user agents, including modern assistive technologies.
How Consultants Can Help
Accessibility design systems help to integrate accessible components within a standardized framework to create inclusive user experiences reliably. Typically, companies need consulting and support around website and digital content accessibility audits, in meeting compliance requirements and content development and related best practices.
Typically, digital accessibility with respect to content revolves around the three legs of text, multimedia, and site-wide characteristics. Font sizes have to be optimized, and textual elements should be legible as far as text is concerned. For multimedia, alt tags on images would help.
For site-wide characteristics, a check on PDFs or presentations should be made to see whether information and content flow structure can be separated in order to let it flow through screen readers. Assistive technologies and platforms are on the rise too. Examples include screen readers, audiovisual communication materials, sign language translators, customized QR codes, etc. Today, companies that are committed to making their digital content accessible will stand out and earn a loyal base of followers. In a world where digital is now ubiquitous, that is a distinct competitive advantage