The internet is used now more than ever. The World Wide Web was already connecting us to information, people, businesses, and more, but we’ve seen additional value in it through a global pandemic. It’s been a means of human connection when none could be found, and it’s shown us that outdated information or methods can be detrimental to keeping the economy going. We see it being utilized in new and creative ways, but what about those who are often left behind?
If the term “Web Accessibility” confuses or frightens you, it really shouldn’t. It’s about shaping your website to reach as many people as possible and make their experience a good one. When we know who we’re trying to serve, we can begin to serve them better than ever.
Who Needs Accessible Websites?
According to The World Bank Group, approximately 15% of the world’s population live with disabilities. That’s over one billion people and would count as the world’s largest minority. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that number may be as high as 26%, or 1 in 4, of the adult population. Though disabilities can vary widely, issues with mobility, cognition, hearing, and vision are experienced most often.
Though Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 applies to government agencies and their contractors, there are other implications regarding civil rights and protected classes that can affect just about any website in existence. The World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, created the Web Contact Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which is a set of standards to help anyone creating or managing a website to avoid litigation and to better serve all site visitors.
As a utility organization, you are providing an essential service to your customers or members. Any roadblock in their journey to begin service, end service, make payments, etc., would be frustrating, but it can be dangerous for your organization when it’s based on a disability. Focusing on eliminating those roadblocks for all of your site visitors, including those with disabilities, doesn’t just lower your risk of legal action—it allows you to truly serve them well.
How Is Accessibility Achieved?
Following W3C standards is the right place to start, but there needs to be attention to detail regarding the site design and the content that lives there. In many cases, we can work with what you have to make it more accessible. Our Content Best Practices help clean up your copy to make it easier to read for any site visitor but is also geared toward those with cognitive disabilities to make scanning and finding information easier.
Clear headers and page sections help those with cognitive issues, too, but they also help anyone with visual impairment by making their navigation experience better. Headers are often used to jump through a page until the correct content is found. Proper alternative text on functional or complex images also conveys important information to anyone using a screen reader to get information from your website.
Using graphic tiles and buttons as a means of site navigation or when linking to important information is another way to aid anyone with mobility or visual impairment. A larger link is much easier to see and click on, whether using a mouse or a touch screen to navigate. It may also be easier to locate for anyone with visual impairment who is not using a screen reader to navigate.
Ensuring linked text is clear and concise and eliminating links that are labeled “click here” or similar helps all site visitors but especially those using a screen reader and keyboard to navigate. If a screen reader audibly says, “click here”, this doesn’t tell the visitor where they’re being directed to and what information they can find there.
Converting PDFs or any scanned documents into actual web content or online forms is a huge step toward an accessible website. The content in these documents often cannot be captured and read by assistive technology tools like screen readers and is not easily translated into other languages. The text is also not responsive, but once converted into web page content, it would allow those with visual impairments to zoom in or increase text size. When converted to a fillable online form, all site visitors can easily fill out each field, go back and edit a field, and submit the form with less frustration. However, not all documents are suitable for conversion to web content, so it’s important to schedule a site audit and discovery call with our team to determine what fits you best.
So What’s Next?
When you’re ready to take the next step in making your website recognizably powerful, we have the tools to help you meet accessibility standards and create a humanized web experience. We’re here to help you put people first—all people.