Web Design

Website Accessibility – What, Why and How?

Maja Krajewska
23rd January 2024
4 minute read

In today’s wild world, where the internet serves as a gateway to information, services, and opportunities, ensuring that websites are accessible to everyone is not just a moral obligation but a legal and practical necessity.

Website accessibility, often referred to as inclusive design, is the practice of making websites usable and navigable for individuals with various disabilities. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of website accessibility, delve into the guidelines provided by WCAG 2.1, and highlight the top three crucial factors to ensure a website is accessible to all.

Understanding Website Accessibility

Website accessibility involves designing and developing websites in a way that accommodates people with disabilities, ensuring they can perceive, navigate, and interact with the content effectively. Disabilities may include visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive impairments. The goal is to create an inclusive digital environment – this could be a website, an interactive brochure, or anything on a screen that caters to a diverse range of users.


The Importance of Website Accessibility

Inclusivity and Equal Opportunities
Website accessibility is fundamentally about providing equal opportunities for everyone, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. A website that is accessible ensures that all users can engage with its content, products, and services, fostering inclusivity and breaking down barriers that may hinder individuals with disabilities from participating fully in the digital landscape.

Legal Compliance and Avoidance of Litigation
In many countries, including the UK, there are legal requirements and standards mandating website accessibility. Non-compliance not only poses legal risks but also exposes businesses to the potential loss of customers and damage to their reputation. By adhering to accessibility guidelines, businesses demonstrate their commitment to social responsibility and accessibility, mitigating the risk of legal repercussions.

Improved User Experience for All
Website accessibility not only benefits individuals with disabilities but also enhances the overall user experience for everyone.

WCAG 2.1: A Blueprint for Accessibility

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), is the global standard for creating accessible web content. It provides a comprehensive set of guidelines and success criteria that cover various aspects of accessibility, including perceivability, operability, understandability, and robustness.

WCAG 2.1 is structured around four key principles:

  1. Perceivable
    This principle focuses on making information and user interface components presentable to all users. Key considerations include providing text alternatives for non-text content, offering captions and other alternatives for multimedia, and ensuring content is adaptable and distinguishable.
  2. Operable
    Operability ensures that all users can interact with and navigate the website effectively. This involves keyboard accessibility, providing sufficient time for users to read and complete tasks, avoiding content that could cause seizures or physical discomfort, and designing navigable and consistent navigation.
  3. Understandable
    For a website to be accessible, its operation and information must be clear and straightforward. This principle emphasizes readable and predictable text, input assistance to prevent and correct errors, and navigation that is consistent and easy to understand.
  4. Robust
    The robustness principle ensures that content can be reliably interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. This involves using valid code, providing compatibility with current and future technologies, and avoiding practices that may interfere with accessibility features.

Top Three Factors in Ensuring Website Accessibility

Responsive Design and Mobile Accessibility

In an era dominated by smartphones and tablets, ensuring that a website is accessible across various devices is paramount. Responsive design not only improves the user experience for mobile users but also contributes to overall accessibility. This includes designing touch-friendly elements, optimizing font sizes, and ensuring that interactive features are easily navigable on smaller screens.

Alt Text and Descriptive Multimedia

Providing alternative text for non-text content, such as images, is a fundamental aspect of website accessibility. Alt text allows screen readers to convey information to users with visual impairments, ensuring that they can understand and engage with the content. Additionally, offering descriptive alternatives for multimedia content, such as captions for videos, further enhances accessibility for users with auditory or cognitive impairments.

Consistent and Intuitive Navigation

A website’s navigation structure plays a pivotal role in ensuring accessibility. Consistent navigation helps all users, especially those with cognitive impairments, find information more easily. Clear headings, logical tab orders, and concise link text contribute to an intuitive navigation experience, making it simpler for users to understand and interact with the website.

Statistics of Users in the UK with Visual Impairments

As of recent statistics, approximately 2 million people in the UK are living with sight loss, with over 360,000 registered as blind or partially sighted. These individuals encounter various challenges in accessing digital content, making the need for website accessibility even more critical. By ensuring that websites adhere to accessibility standards, businesses can tap into this significant demographic and provide a seamless online experience for users with visual impairments.



Wrapping up,

In conclusion, website accessibility is not merely a checklist item but a commitment to inclusivity, equal opportunities, and a positive user experience for all. Adhering to the WCAG 2.1 guidelines and focusing on key factors such as responsive design, descriptive multimedia, and intuitive navigation can transform a website into a digital space accessible to everyone. As the digital landscape evolves, businesses that prioritise website accessibility will not only meet legal requirements but also gain a competitive edge by reaching a broader audience and demonstrating a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

By championing accessibility, we pave the way for a more inclusive and connected online world.

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