What is an accessible website?
People with physical, cognitive, visual or auditory impairments can only use the internet, if appropriate design and development accessibility guidelines are met. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) established these requirements with the “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines” (WCAG). The WCAG are divided in three different levels of conformity: A, AA, AAA. According to these international guidelines, websites must be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. People with disabilities, who mostly use assistive technologies, rely on compliance with these guidelines.
What are the advantages of an accessible website?
Web accessibility is not only a sign and an expression of an open, democratic and inclusive society, but it has also become a key issue due to its economic benefits.
Reaching a much larger audience:
Approximately 1.7 million people in Austria live with temporary or permanent disabilities (source: Statistics Austria). This group not only includes people with disabilities but also people with a migration background, older users or people with a short-term disability, such as people with a plaster cast.
320,000 people in Austria alone (approx. 4% of the population) are severely visually impaired (according to the WHO definition). They can all benefit from accessible websites.
Complying with the law:
Austria has committed itself at EU level to implement the WCAG guidelines (EU mandate 376: EN 301 549). This is an integral part of the eGovernment strategies. In July 2019, the Web Accessibility Act (WZG) came into force in Austria setting a legal duty for public bodies and institutions to make their websites accessible. The inclusion package has been in force since 2016. Moreover, the Austrian Federal Disability Equality Act provides, under certain conditions, for the possibility of bringing an action to eliminate or prohibit discrimination. This includes the web and thus concerns all website operators. Hence, having an accessible website means that you comply with the applicable laws.
Enhancing user experience:
Accessible websites are generally more user-friendly and have a better usability. Moreover, they are more pleasant to use when working on the computer for a long period of time, as sufficient contrasts, colour schemes and effects are provided.
Optimising search parameters:
Search engines are blind as well. If technically set up and tagged properly, accessible websites can be found more easily by search engines and they are also better ranked. This is why Alexa and Co. love accessibility as well.
Ensuring customer loyalty:
The number of easily accessible websites is still rare. People with disabilities tend to change their user and costumer behaviour less frequently. They usually remain loyal to accessible web offers and primarily use the services and benefits offered there.
Criteria for accessibility
The WCAG guidelines consist of four principles that form the basis of web accessibility: perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.
- Principle 1: Perceivable – Information and components of the user interface must be presented to the users in such a way that they can perceive them (text alternatives, subtitles, sequence of contents, contrasts, resizing…).
- Principle 2: Operable – User interface components and navigation must be operable (keyboard operability, sufficient time, no flashes, focus order, skipping content, definition and order of headings, ...).
- Principle 3: Understandable – Information and operation of the user interface must be understandable (good readability, consistent navigation, error detection...).
- Principle 4: Robust – Content must be robust enough to be reliably interpreted by a wide range of user agents, including assistive technologies (screen readers...).
With regards to the three pillars of web content this means:
- Content: Understandable – Structured – Contextual – Relevant – Provision of text alternatives
- Design & Graphics: Good colour contrasts – Clear layout – Intuitive – Responsive – Scalable – Logical reading order
- Technology: Short loading times – Markups (HTML tags) – Skip links – Keyboard accessibility – Input assistance – Consistent navigation