Accessibility on the Internet

Jessica Gessert
Jessica Gessert
October 22 · 7 min read
Accessibility on the Internet

Accessibility on the Internet

What does it mean for a website to be accessible? It means that the content of the website is available, and its functions can be used by literally everybody.

It’s important to create content and design websites in a way that they are user-friendly for all. Everybody who uses the internet, uses it for different reasons, and has different ways of needing the information presented to them. Think large fonts for those with reduced eyesight or access only through a mobile phone set up. Creating greater web accessibility has added value for everyone, including those without restrictions or disabilities.

What exactly is accessibility?

Accessibility is about implementing websites in such a way that the application is designed and structured as simply as possible.

Accessibility refers to the experience of users who may be outside the narrow scope of a "typical" user – that is, who may access or interact with features differently than expected.

According to Google, there are around 7.53 billion people worldwide and 4.48 billion of them use the Internet. 58% of the population have access to the internet. Of these, there are 1 billion people – around 22% of all users – have disabilities.

Why is accessibility so important?

It’s important to design your website, applications, technologies, or tools in the best possible way, to ensure that you reduce any potential tech barriers that prevent online visitors from using your website or online shop. Some people need to use assistive technologies that make digital applications more accessible to them. Both the design and the programming of an application must be done with accessibility in mind so that no user is excluded. Well-implemented apps and websites can also be used by people with disabilities.

From a statistical point of view, people with disabilities are on the Internet more often than the average. They are dependent on features (assistive technologies) whilst using the internet. Creating accessibility greatly benefits them but having a streamline and user-friendly online platform really benefits everyone. Accessibility is an issue for every shop, app, and website that wants to be successful.

Examples of web accessibility / which barriers are often encountered?

Are you asking yourself if you have perhaps ever encountered accessibility problems? If the below examples sound familiar to you, then the answer is yes!

- Have you had problems using a desktop site on a mobile phone?

- Ever noticed that the content of some sites was difficult to classify?

- Have you seen the message 'This content is not available in your region' before?

- Couldn’t find the ‘menu’ section on your tablet?

These are all accessibility problems that you can avoid with our help! A little crash course that we can offer right now, are the below tips to avoid creating a website that is not accessible.

Font that is too small
Luckily, this doesn’t happen all too often as web-designers are well versed with this issue and come prepared with larger font options. Nevertheless, there are situations that sometimes require fitting a lot of content into a small space – for this we’d recommend selecting a font that is easy to read even with a smaller font size.

Language that is understandable
It is important that the content presented on your website is written clearly and in language that is easy to understand. We ourselves may understand what is written or we may have already made ourselves familiar with the writing style and its meaning – but others could stumble over technical terms or a complex sentence structure and become overwhelmed. So always put yourself in someone else’s shoes before hitting 'publish print'!

Usability
Can users use UI components and navigate the content? For example, something that requires a hover effect (when a user moves the mouse over an element) cannot be operated by someone who cannot use a mouse or a touch screen. It’s important to keep things like this in mind.

Advantages of an accessible web:

There are many benefits to accessibility, the main ones being that people can perceive, navigate, and interact with the web easily. In addition to this, they can also contribute to the web better, as it’s set up in a way that they understand in their own way and therefore have more confidence and understanding using it.

Web accessibility covers these disabilities:

- cognitive

- physical

- auditory

- linguistic

- visual

- neurological

Accessibility also affects people without any disabilities and is suitable for:

- Elderly people who are limited in their abilities due to signs of age

- People with a slow internet connection

- People who are restricted, for example, by bright sunlight

- People who use small devices such as smartphones, smartwatches, or smaller screens

Our AI can also be "blind"

As we have already noticed, information is not only used and requested by the user but also by the software itself.  Due to these being run automatically or semi-automatically, they are commonly called robots or bot. Search engines inspect the ‘www’ with the help of web crawlers or robots. One could compare these programs with a visually impaired person in regard to the evaluation and insight on a website, because the programs perceive a page in a similar way of how a visually impaired user would see the site. As a rule, these robots can only evaluate texts. When it comes to images, animations etc. – these remain as good as hidden. The rule of thumb is: "Anything that causes problems for the visually impaired is also an obstacle for robots." Captcha systems are also proving to be a problem. These were designed to differentiate between robots and humans.

The images used, for example, of distorted lettering, must be recognized visually, so the test fails and the system incorrectly treats the blind and visually impaired like a “machine”. Other captcha methods that were developed with a voice output, for example, which pose a problem for non-native speakers. Ultimately, there is no reliable method that can really tell ‘man’ and ‘machine’ apart.

Advantages for a barrier-free website:

Increased customer reach
With an accessible website, you can reach a broader target group. In a society that is getting older and more diverse at a rapid pace, accessible internet is the most important basis for successful communication.

Happier customers
Usability is central to the success of your website. Ease of use makes your content accessible to everyone and makes users more satisfied.

Increased range
Search engines reward accessibility on the web: with Google, among other things, your online presence will be found more easily if it is user-friendly and easily accessible.

Drive digital reach
With your barrier-free online presence, you show that social responsibility and economic efficiency do not contradict each other. Contribute to digital participation and reach people with and without disabilities with your content!

Checklist

The things that you should keep in mind when designing your accessible website to make your website accessible and in accordance with the guidelines of the WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative), you should pay attention to the following things:

-       Use of colors

-       Basic HTML Terms

-       Orientation

-       Contrast ratio

-       Language

-       Texts for pictures

-       Sentence structure

You can access the entire checklist here:

https://webaim.org/standards/wcag/checklist

Let’s get to an important question. Can I test how accessible my website is by myself?

Yes, of course. There are various ways in which you can test accessibility. Here they are below:

Lighthouse
Lighthouse is integrated into the Chrome Developer Tools and enables many different tests on websites. One of the tests includes the test for accessibility. Since 2018, Lighthouse has been an integral part of the Google Chrome browser and can be opened by simply clicking the F12 key or clicking on "other tools" in the menu.

Siteimprove
With Siteimprove, your website is checked according to the WCAG. It is a commercial online tool that offers automated testing procedures.

WAVE toolbar
Wave-toolbar is a wonderful way to have your website checked for accessibility.

Color contrast analyzer
The Color Contrast Analyzer checks your website for color contrast problems. The result shows you whether the relationship between the foreground and background colors is correct and whether all conformity levels have been considered.

The task of creating an accessible website should never be underestimated. They require knowledge of various standards that need to be taken into account. The strict separation of content, structure and design are very helpful for this and should be understood as a basis. We all know that the more you understand about a subject, the easier it is to make certain adjustments and edits that best suit your needs. Our goal is to help you create understanding so that you can design a brilliant website that is specifically tailored to your branding needs.

Jessica Gessert
Jessica Gessert

Jessica Gessert

UX Design & Frontend Development

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