Today Thursday, May 21, 2020, marks the ninth Global Accessibility Awareness Day and together we all want businesses to think about digital inclusion for over 1 billion people worldwide who have disabilities.
Let’s start off by discussing Web Accessibility. This is the term used to describe websites, tools, and technologies that are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can access your website easily. Web accessibility also benefits people without disabilities, for example, people with “temporary disabilities” such as lost glasses or for people who would prefer to listen to a large section of text instead of reading.
WebAIM’s recent web accessibility testing of the home pages of one million websites found that 85.3% (852,868) of websites studied didn’t meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) AA Level because of low contrast text.
Causes of Most Common Accessibility Failures
- Low Contrast Text 86.3%
- Missing Image Alt Text 66%
- Empty Links 59.9%
- Missing Form Input Labels 53.8%
- Empty Buttons 28.7%
- Missing Document Language 28%
Overall, the study shows that many of the roughly 13 million people in the UK who have a disability won’t be able to easily access the websites analysed, if at all.
These are alarming statistics to think that so many people in 2020 are unable to access the internet barrier-free to complete everyday tasks. Every user deserves a first-rate digital experience on the web.
Understanding Accessibility standards
Web Accessibility standards have been created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for everyone to follow. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 define how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities.
The 13 guidelines and success criteria are organised around four principles, which set the foundation for anyone to access and use web content. They are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. You can find out about these in more detail here Understand WCAG guidelines.
Creating a digital platform with these principles in mind is a great starting point but what about usability and inclusion? We are all different and these guidelines are not enough to support everyone online. Common disabilities and impairments that need support online are, visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive. People need to be able customise their experience to read and understand online content easily.
“Our biggest lesson, however, was learning that simply complying to technical standards is not the same thing as true inclusion. We can’t just check the box of compliance and think that the work is done. It is quite possible to make a website that technically passes all the accessibility tests but that still is terribly difficult for a person to use.”
Vijay Mathew, Cultural Strategist & Co-Founder
HowlRound Theatre Commons
Creating a customized experience
A proven way of supporting people online with disabilities, learning difficulties, visual impairments, and people who speak English as a second language, is assistive technology.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic Recite Me has been spreading the importance of digital inclusion and supporting businesses for free with our assistive technology to provide accessibility support to staff and website visitors who need it the most.
The overwhelming response towards our accessibility pledge so far resonates with why Global Accessibility Awareness Day is so important.
Over 100 organsations from the UK and USA including, Public Health Wales, LNER, Virgin Money, Network Rail, Volkswagen, Atkins Global, and the RSPCA, have come together to support over 15,000 people online to read and understand vital COVID-19 information.
If this is not enough evidence to show the importance of accessibility, I don’t know what is.
So, it’s crucial that all websites and digital platforms are now accessible and inclusive, in order to make a fairer society, with equal opportunities for people with disabilities.
Support Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) and share the need for digital inclusion to remove barriers from inaccessible websites that prevent people from taking an active part in life.