Making the web work for everyone
Making the web and other digital interactions accessible is all about inclusiveness. That is, ensuring disabled users enjoy the same access, rights and privileges to information and functionality as able bodied users.
How might someone vision impaired, for example, complete a task on your website using screen reading software? Ensuring they’re not disadvantaged (or discriminated against) is what ‘accessibility’ in this context is all about.
The rules and technical specifications governing uniformity and accessibility compliance are overseen by the World Wide Web consortium (W3C) under their WCAG 2.0 guidelines, to which Australia is a signatory.
An accessible web means making your digital assets and interactions available to people with disabilities, including those with:
- Vision impairment (e.g. low vision or colour blindness)
- Physical impairment affecting their ability to use a mouse or keyboard
- Hearing impairment or loss affecting their ability to discern or hear online audio
- Cognitive impairments (e.g. dyslexia, ADD, learning difficulties, memory impairment) affecting their ability to comprehend or understand your site
- Literacy impairments (e.g. low reading skills or English is not their first language) possibly affecting their ability to fully understand your site and its messages.
Beneficiaries from an accessible web, however, are a much wider group than just people with disabilities, and also include:
- People with poor communications infrastructure, especially Australians living in rural and regional areas
- Older people and new users, who may be computer illiterate
- People with old equipment (not capable of running the latest software)
- People with restricted access environments (e.g. locked-down corporate desktops)
- People with temporary impairments or who are coping with environmental distractions.
Does my site need to be accessible?
In a word, yes. Reports suggest that 20% of Australians suffer from one or more disabilities, whether that be vision, hearing, motor or cognitive related. And with an ageing population, that percentage can only increase.
Then there’s the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Failure by your website to provide full and equal access to information and functionality for all may be in breach of the Act.
What is accessibility testing?
It’s a measure (using software and pre-determined success criteria) that determines whether individuals with disabilities will be able to successfully use the system in question.
The end goal, in both usability and accessibility, is to discover the simplest and most efficient ways for users to interact with a website, and feed that information back into improving future designs following an iterative process.
And while automated tools help, they can never replace 'real user testing'. Digital Garden, with its partner network, offers accessibility reviews and evaluation. We encourage clients to conduct formal or informal evaluations throughout the process, and not as a one-off exercise.
In addition to finding accessibility problems, evaluating users with disabilities usually reveals general ‘problems’ that impact all users.
The next steps
Get in touch and let’s see what’s required to meet your accessibilty design needs.