Accessibility Solutions Make Web Content More Accessible
With the right accessibility solutions, companies can add new customers, create a positive brand image and mitigate the legislative risks
The internet has made the world much more connected than ever and for businesses, it presented an open opportunity to expand their footprints globally. Building a digital presence is important to connect with the prospective and existing customers and while doing so, companies often fail to comply with the globally accepted accessibility standards. Implementing accessibility solutions is a step in the right direction which can make the internet an equal place for all.
According to the World Bank, there are at least one billion people with recognized disabilities of some or the other kind, which sums up to around 15% of the world’s total population. The websites that do not comply with accessibility guidelines are restricting millions of people with disabilities from accessing it fully or partially.
With the tightening of norms by the government, complying with the web accessibility standards is becoming a growing concern for many businesses. Countries like Canada have made it mandatory for all the public websites and web content to meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA criteria Under the Policy on Communications and Federal Identity. The United States with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires all federal electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities. In addition to this several individual states have adapted their own web accessibility laws that incorporate WCAG 2.0. Brazil’s Accessibility Model for Electronic Government Operations is based on WCAG 2.0, with additional recommendations. European Union in 2010 directed that all EUROPA websites under the public sector must adhere to WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards. In addition, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, and Switzerland have adopted their own web accessibility laws that incorporate WCAG 2.0. Japan’s JIS X 8341 is based on WCAG 2.0 criteria and is required for all local and central government websites.
What are Accessibility Solutions?
Accessibility solutions help companies in making their website accessible for everyone; particularly to the people with limited visual, motor, auditory, speech, or cognitive abilities. Accessibility solutions are designed to comply with the WCAG guidelines to make the web presence a smooth experience for all users along with protecting the company from possible legal actions.
The WCAG Guidelines
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) created a set of standards to ensure the internet’s longevity and usability with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The first set of guidelines WCAG 1.0 was published in 1999, then this was updated in 2008 with WCAG 2.0 and it further revised guidelines in 2018 with WCAG 2.1. These guidelines are the most widely accepted web accessibility standards that help website creators to follow accessible approaches to work along with assistive technologies such as braille readers for hearing/reading text or images, keyboard, or joystick navigators for people who cannot use a mouse and screen magnifiers for low vision users. These guidelines are framed to address the accessibility of web content across all the platforms such as desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices.
The four high-level principles defined by WCAG to describe functional accessibility of a website are Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust (POUR). The WCAG further divided its guidelines into three levels to define the success criteria for a website,
The three levels of WCAG 2.1 have overall 61 criteria for the websites, Level A has 25 criteria, whereas Level AA has 13 additional criteria and Level AAA is the strictest of them all, with the addition of 23 more criteria. For companies, compliance with every additional level makes their website accessible for more and more customers.
Section 508 and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Under the Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act of 1973, agencies are required to develop, maintain, procure and use the information and communications technology accessible to the people with disabilities. Whereas, The United States’ Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) made it necessary for the organizations to provide ‘reasonable accommodations’ to employees with disabilities. The ‘Title III’ of the ADA is being interpreted to include websites as ‘places of public accommodation’, which sees the websites with significant inaccessible components as discriminatory against persons with disabilities and violation of Title III of the ADA.
Benefits for Organizations
Investing in making a website accessible can be beneficial for the company’s business and their return on investment. An accessible website creates a positive brand image and can generate additional revenue for the company. Spending resources on deploying accessibility solutions on the existing website can be very impactful for the company’s business. Accessible websites have better search results and the potential to reach a bigger audience pool. Being SEO friendly, it can do wonders in keeping your website ahead of the competitors. With faster download times and better usability, it can improve general customer experience and loyalty among existing customers.
This additional feature not only helps people with varying needs but also benefits regular users while accessing the website. The text-to-speech and voice recognition feature can help users to use the website on mobile devices effectively while closed captions on video can be useful in understanding the content in a noisy environment. Giving users an option to magnify text can be helpful for users of all ages and provide them a user-friendly experience.
The Click-Away Pound Survey observed that 71% of people with disabilities tend to leave a website if they found it to be difficult to use. The customers who belong to this section represent 10% of total online spending. Globally there are more than a billion people with limited abilities and their immediate family and friends constitute the spending power of more than $7 trillion yearly, according to Firth Quadrant Analytics study. This presents a considerable commercial opportunity for companies along with making a social impact while getting a healthy return on investment.
With accessibility solutions, organizations have to make just a few tweaks to their existing website and reach a sheer number of people with disabilities without compromising on the current set of customers.
Leaving people with limited capabilities behind may attract many legal obligations for the company. Over time, countries are witnessing an increase in the legal cases where the customers are suing the companies for not complying with the accessibility guidelines. This unnecessary legal action can attract fines worth millions which can put an additional burden on the company along with negative brand publicity.
Companies not complying with the accessibility standards can find themselves within a substantial risk of litigation. This will not only have direct financial ramifications but will leave customers unhappy along with damaging the reputation of the company. Many companies have already faced legal actions or have an ongoing case in courts. Universities including Harvard and MIT, grocery chain Winn-Dixie Stores Inc., Domino’s Pizza restaurants, streaming giants like Hulu, Disney and Netflix have all faced accessibility lawsuits. While the legal consequences are making web accessibility a priority for all, the financial and ethical benefits are encouraging businesses to take an immediate call on implementing accessibility solutions to their existing websites.
Companies with an international presence have to comply with these specific laws and policies globally. This creates an inclusive environment for the users regardless of the location of the company and the users. Implying accessibility solutions on an existing website can save a company from the possible risk of mitigation and financial losses due to fines and legal fees.
How to Make Multimedia Content and Images More Accessible?
To make websites attractive and more visually pleasing, companies tend to use multimedia content on their websites. The video, audio and graphic content make a website more engaging. While making this addition, they should keep in mind to comply with the WCAG guidelines for the multimedia content. In the case of video content, the video must have closed captions, proper description along with the transcript to go with the video content and tags to support it. For people who can’t see the video, the visual content must be described in a separate narration track. Along with this, a sign language interpretation can give extra brownie points to your website.
For other types of multimedia files like PDFs or any other form of Microsoft Office documents, it is important to make them easily accessible and have them properly tagged.
Images are an important aspect of every website. All the images present on a website should properly define what the image illustrates for the user who can’t see. The images on any website must have an alt attribute (or alt-tag) that defines the meaning and the objects of the image. Sometimes the image contains text (infographics), so the embedded text in the image must be present in the alt attribute.
With accessibility solutions, companies can identify and implement the changes required in the multimedia documents very easily with just a few tweaks in the website layout.
Making Your Website More Accessible
There are many compositions on a website that companies often ignore and that could be a possible lapse in their way to becoming completely accessible to all. WCAG 2.1 guidelines are released focusing on these small and big factors for the accessibility of a website.
From the menus, images and popups to forms, buttons, icons and links, companies have to follow guidelines to create equal accessibility for all the users. This does put some additional responsibilities on the web developers, graphic designers and content creators. Meanwhile taking the help of companies providing accessibility solutions can make this work a lot easier.
An accessibility solution can help companies to expand provision for people with low vision, cognitive and learning difficulties. It can also enhance support for touch interactions and keyboards along with creating a detailed description of page controls and elements. Accessibility solutions can help in improving text, fonts and layout adaptabilities along with contrast requirements for the users.
A WCAG compliance website provides a conductive interface for people with varying needs. Along with meeting emerging global legal requirements, it provides a better experience for everyone using the website. Accessibility solutions work on a broad spectrum of assistive technologies, devices, operating systems and various platforms.
MPS Accessibility Solutions
MPS has a proven record of helping companies in making their content accessible while complying with the WCAG standards. With a diverse accessibility service, portfolio and accessibility compliance consultancy MPS works as a thought partner and acts as a one-stop solution for all your website accessibility worries.
MPS has extensive experience in supporting publishers in complying with the WCAG 2.1, Section 508 guidelines and ADA requirements. The experts use a unique methodology to carry out a gap analysis of the existing website and provide a report on the non-compliant items. This analysis includes the text, art, animations, video, audio, HTML files and other content present on the website.
With a dedicated team of programmers, production experts, alt-text writers and quality assurance specialists with extensive knowledge of guidelines and criteria to meet various levels of accessibility, MPS Accessibility solutions can help you in achieving web accessibility and reduce the litigation risks.
It is much easier to implement accessibility solutions to your existing website than you think, contact us today to make your website accessible to all.
Click here to learn more about MPS Accessibility Solutions.