What is Web Accessibility?

Software Development
What is Web Accessibility?
Article by Sumana Ganguly
Last Updated: November 12, 2023

In this article, we will discuss what is web accessibility and in particular, discuss how to achieve it and share the benefits of making your website accessible to a diverse group of users.

Finally, we will look into the AI-powered accessibility tool that helps websites achieve accessibility compliance quickly, easily, and seamlessly and will also automatically keep it that way.

What is Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility is a methodology of web design that focuses on developing websites that people with disabilities can use with little to no barriers.

While website usability focuses on the general user experience which covers all users (those with disabilities and those without), accessibility is specifically focused on meeting web accessibility standards that make websites into an environment where people with low vision, hard of hearing, or those who have motor disabilities can make the most of.

The Main Principles of Web Accessibility

There are four main principles of website accessibility that serve as a basis for creating website content that anyone online can use, absorb and interact with. All websites that aim for web accessibility should adhere to these.

  • Perceivability: This refers to presenting the UI elements and website information in a way that users’ senses can easily perceive without missing any bit of info. For a majority of users that do not live with a disability, this mostly means visual elements. For users with disabilities, visual elements are either adjusted so they can perceive them or are replaced with sound and other tactile elements.
  • Operability: This principle enforces the general functioning of interactive interface elements like controls, navigation, buttons and others. In the case of a majority of users, making these elements operable means making them identifiable, clickable, tappable and swipeable. For users that can’t interact with a website in this way, operability means using assistive devices like eye trackers and voice commands.
  • Understandable formats: A technology that a website uses should be consistent and clear, with predictable design and usage patterns. The website users should not experience problems with comprehending the meaning and purpose of the presented information.
  • Robustness: This principle signifies the capability of website content to perform on a wide array of technologies, including assistive devices that users with disabilities resort to.

How to Create an Accessible Website

  1. Text Alternatives
  2. Captions and Text Transcripts
  3. Content Presentation
  4. Avoidance of Autoplayed and Time-Based Content
  5. Accessible Navigation
  6. Legible and Understandable Content
  7. Predictable Content Organization
  8. Accessibility Statement

The web accessibility solutions that we are about to discuss have been benchmarked by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative according to WCAG Standards. They are the essential elements of any website that wants to achieve accessibility.

[Source: AccessiBe]

Text Alternatives

To replace and convey the purpose of the visual context, websites can use text alternatives. They turn the visual content information into readable text that can be presented in various ways to meet the user requirements.

These can be larger text sizes, an audio recording of a text or the possibility to read the text on braille devices.

Captions and Text Transcripts

People with visual and hearing impairments can find multimedia elements such as sound and video quite limiting. This is where text transcripts come in handy as suitable replacements, as captions or sign language interpretation of audio content overcomes these limitations.

Content Presentation

One of the most important principles of accessibility states that users should be able to change the way the content is presented on the website. This envelops read-aloud by the computer/phone, using different color contrast options, smaller or larger text size, etc.

Avoidance of Autoplayed and Time-Based Content

Different users do not perceive or comprehend content equally. It may take more time for some users to read a piece of content or complete any task on a website like typing.

Dynamic content that does not scroll, pause and interrupt should be taken into consideration here, as well as the adjustment of time-sensitive elements on a website.

It is also advisable to avoid the flashing content that can hurt people with a photosensitive disorder or at least provide a timely warning about this content ahead.

Accessible Navigation

As a critical element of any user experience, website navigation should come with an intuitively organized content structure that lets users with disabilities experience websites according to their needs. To achieve this, it is essential to understand how users interact with site maps, search engines and other website structures.

Legible and Understandable Content

A website should cater to the broadest audience possible when it comes to content. This essentially means making content readable and easy to understand in diverse formats, especially for users with cognitive limitations and learning disabilities.

Predictable Content Organization

Any website’s content should be arranged predictably and consistently. This ensures that users can understand and navigate the website quickly by following familiar patterns.

Accessibility Statement

To display your commitment to website accessibility and to signal to users with disabilities that your website is adjusted to their needs, include an accessibility statement or badge on your website’s homepage.

This statement should include the accessibility standards and guidelines you follow, for your visitors and stakeholders to know about. It can also contain contact information in case visitors find certain issues with accessibility on your site.

What is Web Accessibility Testing?

Accessibility testing is a series of steps that website developers and designers need to perform in order to make sure that every user can easily access and use the web application.

Web accessibility testing is a specialized version of this testing that establishes whether the website that aims to be accessible is effective in this area.

Accessibility and web accessibility testing need to follow certain regulations and guidelines:

[Source: AccessiBe]
  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) suggest a way in which developers can improve overall website accessibility.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that technology should be made available and accessible to anyone in organizations, schools and public buildings.
  • Rehabilitation Act (Rehab Act) whose section 504 ensures all people with disabilities can access education, workplace and other organizations and whose section 508 ensures access to technology.

How To Perform Accessibility Testing?

  1. Step #1: Understand Accessibility Guidelines
  2. Step #2: Choose Testing Tools
  3. Step #3: Manual Testing
  4. Step #4: Test Different Browsers and Devices
  5. Step #5: Involve Users with Disabilities
  6. Step #6: Document and Prioritize Findings
  7. Step #7: Address and Fix Issues
  8. Step #8: Retest and Validate

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to perform accessibility testing:

Step #1: Understand Accessibility Guidelines

Familiarize yourself with accessibility guidelines to understand the best practices when it comes to ensuring that digital content, websites, and applications are accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Step #2: Choose Testing Tools

There are various automated accessibility testing tools available that can help identify potential issues, such as WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool), Axe by Deque, or Lighthouse (built into Google Chrome Developer Tools).

Step #3: Manual Testing

While automated tools are helpful, they may not catch all accessibility issues. Manual testing by individuals with knowledge of accessibility standards is crucial. Some of the key aspects to check manually include:

  • Keyboard Accessibility: Ensure all functionality can be accessed and operated using a keyboard only.
  • Screen Reader Testing: Use screen readers (e.g., NVDA for Windows, VoiceOver for macOS/iOS) to navigate and understand the content.
  • Alternative Text: Verify that all images have descriptive alternative text.
  • Color Contrast: Check that text and images have sufficient contrast for readability.
  • Form Labels: Ensure all form elements have clear and descriptive labels.
  • Heading Structure: Confirm that the document or page has a logical and well-structured heading hierarchy.
  • Link Text: Verify that hyperlink text is descriptive and meaningful out of context.
  • Video and Audio: Provide captions and/or transcripts for multimedia content.

Step #4: Test Different Browsers and Devices

Accessibility can vary across different browsers and devices. Test your product on various platforms to ensure consistent accessibility.

Step #5: Involve Users with Disabilities

Include individuals with disabilities in your testing process. They can provide invaluable feedback on their experience with your product and identify any accessibility challenges.

Step #6: Document and Prioritize Findings

Create a report documenting all the accessibility issues found during testing. Prioritize the issues based on their severity and impact on users.

Step #7: Address and Fix Issues

Work on fixing the identified accessibility issues. Depending on the complexity of the issues, you may need to hire developers, designers, and content creators.

Step #8: Retest and Validate

After implementing the fixes, retest the product to ensure that the accessibility issues have been resolved and that new issues have not been introduced.

Keep in mind that accessibility is an ongoing process. Continuously monitor, test, and improve your product's accessibility to ensure a positive user experience for all users. 

Why Web Accessibility Matters 

Websites that are accessible to the general public have:

  • Smaller maintenance and upgrade costs
  • Better search engine ranking
  • Boosted audience reach
  • Demonstrated social responsibility
  • The capacity to mitigate the risk of litigation
  • Better online reputation

Simply put, a website with a well-implemented accessibility strategy not only benefits the users but the business as well.

How to Achieve Web Accessibility

Making a website accessible should not be a complicated process. There’s an AI-based solution that helps web developers and designers make their websites ADA and WCAG compliant (learn more on what is ADA compliance).

AccessiBe's access widget is an automated website accessibility tool that powers over 100,000 websites worldwide. The solution is a game-changer in web accessibility, simplifying and streamlining the process to becoming accessible and compliant using machine learning and computer vision technologies. It also helps websites acquire accessibility statements and certification of performance.

With AccessiBe, online businesses can:

  • Set up and run the tool in a matter of minutes
  • Comply with existing accessibility legislation
  • Attract new potential customers by expanding their market reach

The process of becoming web accessibility compliant with AccessiBe consists of these four steps

  • Paste the solution’s JS code onto the website to install the accessibility widget instantly
  • The tool’s AI system scans and analyzes your website
  • The website becomes accessible and compliant in up to 48 hours
  • Every 24 hours, the AI scans for new and revised content to fix

AccessiBe's accessWidget comes in several billing plans, for both annual and monthly billing:

  • Standard: for websites under 1,000 unique pages
  • Large: for websites under 10,000 unique pages
  • Huge: for websites under 100,000 unique pages
  • Enterprise: tailored solution with no page limit
  1"DesignRush Recommends: Website Accessibility Tool"

Takeaways on What is Web Accessibility

Website accessibility is an essential consideration in contemporary web design. It aims to be as inclusive as possible by providing a consistent and enjoyable user experience to all users, including those with disabilities.

Accessible websites perform better because they are open to a whole new set of visitors, which increases market opportunities and even SEO rankings, among others. They also mitigate the risks of litigation for websites that do not comply with obligatory regulations of accessibility.

When designing an accessible website, it is important to follow certain steps like:

  • Using text alternatives
  • Allowing captions and text transcripts
  • Avoiding timed and autoplayed content
  • Creating understandable content
  • Organizing content and navigation in an intuitive manner
  • Allowing users to adjust their own UX

What Is Web Accessibility Testing FAQs

What are the examples of accessibility testing?

Screen reader testing, keyboard-only testing, color contrast testing, ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) testing, text resizing testing, form accessibility testing, assistive technology compatibility testing, language and page structure testing are all examples of web accessibility testing techniques.

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